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A Death in the Family and the Importance of Religion

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A Death in the Family and the Importance of Religion

Religion is one of the most talked about topics in the world today. Be it the radical actions taken by Extremist groups, or by the widespread media coverage of religious events. In a Death in the Family by James Agee, religion is an important driving force. It is the greatest cause of discussion and strife in the nuclear family of Mary, Jay, Rufus, and little Catherine, and in Mary's extended family.

At the beginning of the novel Mary prays for her religion not to come between her and Jay, she wants to raise the kids up in a Catholic house while Jay and the rest of Mary’s family don’t see eye to eye with her. However, it seems that Jay and Mary have a relationship that is stable enough to endure their differing ideologies. Early on in the story, when Rufus tirelessly questions Mary about death, she answers solely using religious ideology. We see not only that it will be difficult for her to raise her children without them questioning her beliefs, but also that it will be difficult for Rufus to accept such beliefs because they do not logically make sense. However, throughout part two, it is very noticeable how distant the family becomes with Mary because of her religious beliefs.

In part two of A Death in the Family, the families of both Jay and Mary start to heavily oppose Mary’s religious beliefs, leading to the exact thing Mary did not want: a rift between her and Jay. However it is not Jay who gets evidently angry at Mary, rather her brother and father, Andrew and Joel. Their anger is stemming from their feeling that Mary is wasting her time, intelligence and passion on religious devotion. Nonetheless, they try to remember fact that she derives some comfort from religion, even if it is hard for them to understand or appreciate. Finally, in part three Mary completely isolates herself from her family and devotes herself to Catholicism fully

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