Sunday, October 12, 2008

Timothy's Search for Certainty

In Tom Bissell’s short story “God Lives in St. Petersburg”, Timothy’s actions may be guided by his uncertainty in his faith. Timothy is an undercover missionary who tries to spread Christianity. Throughout the story, he loses his faith in God because he finds little success in his mission. Similar to the way Timothy turns to God, Timothy’s students look to him for knowledge of what is right and wrong. Since Timothy may feel misled by God, he may not want his students to be misled by himself. He may be frustrated by the idea of looking to someone else for guidance. Therefore, the act of smacking Rustam for following his teachings may be an outward projection of Timothy’s own frustration in following God for so long. In addition, Timothy’s sexual encounters with Sasha may be an attempt to hold on to some sense of certainty in his life. In the story, Timothy’s life is filled with uncertainty; he is unsure of his mission and his faith in God is shaken. When he has sex with Sasha, there is some comfort in the act because he knows that it will be pleasurable. He felt that at the moment of ecstasy, “nothing was wrong, nothing, with anyone, and he emptied himself into Sasha without guilt, only with appreciation and happiness and bliss” (22). Timothy is certain that the sex will make him happy, if for only a brief moment. Therefore, these sexual acts may be comforting acts for Timothy; they give him a small sense of certainty in an uncertain world. In addition, Timothy’s decision to sleep with Susanna can be looked at in the same light. Timothy lacks faith in his ability to save people through Christianity, so he looks for other concrete ways to do so. He submits to Susanna’s request to be his wife because he knows that the decision may save her from poverty.

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