The death of both the body and soul in these stories intrigues me. The existential crisis idea comes into light literally with the story of the blind man. I argue that his blindness is metaphorical to the way people fear death. The knowledge he has, is how we are supposed to “see” suffering as a part of life rather than avoid it.
Therefore, I would argue that the postlapsarian character in the text is not the blind man but rather the nurse. She is blind to the recognition of pain, I think also making the nurse a female supports the post-Eden argument that Professor Scanlon was making.
In both texts we discussed how faith could be a scam that people buy into. Yet, I don’t think this is the point Borden tries to make. The faith we see in the texts does not make life easier. In fact I would argue it makes life a lot harder. The belief in an afterlife is not something that makes their life on earth necessarily better or that person better than anyone else. Our characters still suffer and die. Faith does not alleviate their pain, nor do they always accept death. Yet their faith seems to obey the presence of pain in this world. A believer can still say choose another person, or why me, or what is the purpose. But the essence of faith asks that believers not care about the reason for what sometimes feels like punishment, merely because such reasoning is incomprehensible. That is why the cup of coffee though small is the symbol of prosperity in a world of spiritual poverty, much like the widow giving two coins. Is it enough? I think the reason the nurse is happy in the beginning is because she feels purpose in even the small ways she helps others. She loses that when she begins to feel alone and not looked after like she has done for others. I think this is supposed to show two things. The first is the selfish nature of humanity and how we want our own pain to be stopped before others, much like the worse cases we decide who gets our attention and who doesn’t. Also, the breakdown of the nurse shows us what happens when we focus on being unable to stop death and therefore are unable to help another even in the littlest way. That is why the older ones appear at the end I believe. To show us the need to reach out even if it may do nothing whatsoever not because it makes you a better person or to help ourselves but because empathy is what keeps us human.
Faith is the cup of coffee in the sense that does not aim to take away the picture of how bleak everything is. Our characters still question why they are hurting, they still feel lost and hopeless sometimes like the blind man after all is said and done. However, with faith, with the coffee, with the crucifix before them, death is to be endured not diminished. Faith then is not being proposed as a feel-good and everything is better type of thing. It is a slow process demonstrated in the living of holiness through subtle acts of charity and humility in the midst of a world that is shrouded in violence and blackness, like the priest in Hemingway or Borden. I think this is what Borden is trying to get at in the image of the rabbi holding up the crucifix at the end, that someone was willing to help in a moment of distress as someone was there for you, regardless of what sect they belong to. That is an important lesson to learn whether you are a Christian, Jew, or Muslim.
In conclusion, today is All Saints Day in the Catholic Church. We have talked a little bit about how saints and angels have their role within religion and salvation. If faith was just some temporal comfort in Borden’s stories why does her characters die while reacting to it? Some would argue faith falls into the ideology of war, where you do your bit and are rewarded for it. That could be true, but just like the war itself, feeling or emotion is not the best motivator especially when you lose sight of what you believe you should be rewarded for in times of distress. Faith by obligation is what I say we experience in these stories. The witness that duty for another’s life comes before our own, that is our little cups of coffee or our crucifix holding. We all want to say I can help you, that I can take away the pain, yet this leads to the worst sense relativism from the absolute truth that certain aspects of faith depend on. You can not heal everyone, and often you can not heal yourself or stop death. It will come. There is death on this earth that much is known. So why pretend like we have a purpose in what we do if there is no God? I think this is the question Borden wants us to ask as we read about death and faith, and the hope that still somehow persists in the hopelessness.