Thematic analysis of “The Temple of Death” by Arthur Christopher Benson
Wednesday, 23rd December 2015.
HOUGANGOYE NGOUAMBILA Rodolphe
UOB/ FLSH/ Anglais/ Master 2
: Read throughout this short story by A. C. Benson, choose one or two themes and comment upon.
“The Temple of Death” is a short story written by the British author Arthur Christopher Benson (1862 – 1925). It deals with Paullinus, a Roman follower of a Christian faith who gets lost in his travels and finds himself at the animist “Temple of Death”. “The Temple of Death” is described is a tale of mystery and supernatural. Though religious, it can also be referred to as a “Ghost Story”, because it is all about esotery and occultism. The gothic story portrayed in those lines better points out the ideological (even physical) clash between animism and christianism. Will Paullinus’ faith help him overcome the dreadful and ravenous beast that is “the Hound of Death” and lord of the temple? This is what we are going to discover in this paper.
The ever-present theme which retains the readers’ attention in that short story is definitely the conflict between animism and the Christian faith. Animism refers to the attribution of a living soul to plants, inanimate objects, and natural phenomena; it is also the belief in a supernatural power that organizes and animates the material universe. As for christianism, it is the beliefs and practices of Christians (followers of the Christ). Paullinus’ work is the refutation of paganism and the apology of christianism by spreading the gospel all over the world.
In fact, the inhabitants of the village live in total ignorance of other faiths apart from theirs, mainly based on ancient customs and beliefs. They always refer to the divine entity who rules the universe in plural (“gods” (p.2)) which suggests that every single element of the cosmos has its god of its own (“god of war”, “god of harvest”, and the like). At the very beginning of the tale, the storyteller let us observe that: “The scattered folk that inhabited it [the village] were mostly heathens, and very strange and secret rites were still celebrated in lonely sanctuaries” (p.1). The words “secret rites” and “sanctuaries” have an esoterical and occult connotation here. This implies that only the initiateds can really accede their traditional inheritance and assess its value. That helps better understand why the narrator, through the old man’s advice to Paullinus, states: “There is, in the wood, some way off the track, a place to which I would not have you go – it is a temple of one of our gods, a dark place” (p.2). This passage reveals two hints. First, the temple is not accessible to all and second, it is a dangerous place as the adjective “dark” suggests. It is a place full of mysteries.
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“The Temple of Death” is a short story written by the British author Arthur Christopher Benson (1862 – 1925). It deals with Paullinus, a Roman follower of a Christian faith who gets lost in his travels and finds himself at the animist “Temple of Death”. “The Temple of Death” is described is a tale of mystery and supernatural. Though religious, it can also be referred to as a “Ghost Story”, because it is all about esotery and occultism.