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The Knowledge of Angels

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Introduction

The Knowledge of Angels Knowledge of Angles is a fable; examine the roles played by three characters. Jill Paton-Walsh's fable presents the reader with three strong intellectual characters; Severo, Bendixt and Palinor, whose fates become intertwined and reliant on each others opinions and views. From the outset, the character of Palinor is repeatedly given a Christ like image as he is described as 'blotched with a splash of carmine light cast by the wound in the side of Christ, portrayed in the central light, crucified.' This description is indicative of how Palinor will suffer as Christ did for his differing views, as he represents science in the on going battle between Benedixt and Severo's religion. Palinor's recurring descriptions involving light indicate his enlightenment, as he comes from the free thinking island of Aclar, where he 'is a prince, not by blood but by achievement.' This indicates Palinor's home land being a meritocracy, further implying his representation of freedom and conscious thinking. The island is a much closed society and the appearance of the outsider and wolf child demonstrate the xenophobic distrust of foreigners and the inward looking views of the islanders. \\\\\Palinor's status is similar to that of Severo, being the Cardinal Prince of Grandinsula, and is regarded highly by his people, as he lived 'austerely and plainly... ...read more.

Middle

These practices and places of worship containing torture chambers make a mockery of the monolithic orthodoxy that Severo and Benedixt have based their faith upon. The use of a medieval setting represents the out dated way of thinking regarding religion, such as torturing a man that cannot be religiously categorized. Palinor 'wondered why it is those who believe most passionately in a merciful deity who are themselves most murderous and cruel.' The naivety of Benedixt adds appeal to a character that does not possess understanding of how a blacksmith works, letting the reader forgive his ignorance at punishing Palinor, as he knows no better than what he has been taught. Whereas Palinor is an 'engineer', who uses this skill to create a water fall to ease bathing, ironically, it is with this structure that the three men disrobe and become equals 'in a baptism of laughter,' showing the reader that without the constraints of religion, all men are equals. The dichotomy of theologian Benedixt and humanist Palinor, is apparent when Benedixt tries to present evidence of God, it becomes clear that the atheist bears likeness to that of the philosopher Immanuel Kant, who believed humans are an individual entity, and freedom to think is a fundamental tenet of human right. ...read more.

Conclusion

Severo Severo indicates the way the island unites theology and moral values, as he has his own ideas and views and does not appear to be judgmental. He represents the possibilities of change in Grandinsula, as he sees Palinor negate Benedixt's faith, and has the power to change the islands inward thinking. Severo's admiration for Palinor is evident as he 'exclaimed in astonishment' at the sight of the fountain Palinor constructed, and 'eagerly spurred his horse for the last turn of the road.' Severo's remorse before Palinor is taken to his death is striking as he was 'openly weeping,' showing the humanity and regret at his failed experiment with Amara. The three men offer a very real representation of what happens when power and religion are ungoverned by morals and ethics. Benedixt's blind faith and life's work is dismantled by reasoning, Palinor's freedom and integrity are raped by ignorance, ultimately costing him his life, and Severo shows what becomes of using human life to confirm personal theories. Although The Knowledge of Angels is a fable and the characters are only alive in 'the eternal present', the story challenges how we live today, and the values of our seemingly fragile society, educing the reader to acknowledge the possibility of both 'morning knowledge' and 'evening knowledge'. ...read more.

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