William Cowper and Evangelicalism in “The Castaway”

10 Mar

The idea of predestination means you are predetermined to go to heaven or hell. God has an almighty plan and no matter what you do, your place in the afterlife is predetermined. This is one of the major beliefs in the evangelical faith. The evangelical faith differs from other forms of Christianity based on their belief to follow the teachings of the book precisely and not how tradition has dictated the Christian faith. Evangelicals also believe vehemently in the idea of religious conversion. John Cowper lived with many people after a nervous breakdown he encountered, one of these roommates being a devout evangelist. This roommate is believed to have influenced Cowper’s writing and this can be seen in the poem, The Castaway. In this poem Cowper describes himself as a “destin’d wretch” and refers to himself when speaking about the castaway drowning by saying “But I beneath a rougher sea, and whelm’d in deeper gulphs than he.” Calling himself a “destin’d wretch” implies that his destiny was to be a wretch such as he, essentially calling himself scum. When claiming he explains that he is “whelm’d in deeper gulphs than he,” he implies that he is destined to be in a much worse situation inferring that he is damned and condemned to eternal life in hell. Much of William Cowper’s work speaks about heaven and hell and the afterlife often referring to where he believes he has been predetermined to end up.

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