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Epiphany at Death and the Road to Salvation

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Epiphany at Death and the Road to Salvation
In Everyman and Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, the protagonists are faced with their judgment day and presented with an account of their lives. Everyman is a man wealthy materialistically, while Faustus is wealthy in arts such as logic, medicine, law, and divinity. Everyman represents the men in society who are fixed in their material lives and lose sight of Christ. He befriends men who abandon him while on a pilgrimage to Christ, learning that what he once valued, his wealth, is useless to him when he has to account for his lack of good deeds. Faustus unlimited intelligence, yet he is dissatisfied with his gift; he would prefer experiment with black magic. Faustus gives his soul to the devil in exchange for the power to perform black magic, but he is ultimately damned to hell because of his decision and failure to recognize his fault. Faustus and Everyman fail to recognize Christ and their afterlife is left at stake. On the road to salvation, death serves as a groundbreaking event in the life of mortal men. Throughout their quest, Everyman and Faustus struggle to prove themselves worthy of greater afterlife through misusage of their mortal lives.
Everyman is approached by the devil with a pilgrimage which he must partake, one where he will not come back alive. He seeks help in that those who befriend and abandon him during his lifetime such as: beauty, goods, and knowledge cannot help him on his journey. Good Deeds is the only character that could assist everyman, but Good Deeds is outweighed by sin, and is ultimately unable to help Everyman. Good Deeds represents that which every man must present to Christ to be judged. Everyman’s sin outweighs his good deeds, jeopardizing his salvation; Man must achieve salvation through their own efforts—good deeds. “Everyman must face God in the final judgment of death. None of the aids and friends of the life will support Everyman, as the speeches of the allegorical figures Fellowship and others make clear” (Cunningham 204). When man faces death he suddenly comes to terms with his life, as if the time of death is the pivotal moment in one’s life, resulting in man reevaluating and redefining his life and pleading for chances previously exhausted by idolizing worldly possessions. The moment that man realizes that worldly materials do not descend to the grave, they are only left with themselves, then becoming helpless and at mercy to death:
It is the very helplessness that makes Everyman’s descent into the grave so poignant—and so victorious. It is the letting go of the self that we all fear the most. The recognition that there is nothing further to be done, that we have lost control that our solipsistic assumptions about our own importance are dissolving before our eyes. It is Nothing encroaching upon Everything. It is the end (Spinrad 84).
Everyman receives salvation, unlike Faustus who fails to realize that there is more to mortal life than his greedy quest for power. Faustus voluntarily surrenders his soul to the devil, greedily seeking more than the knowledge that Christ has blessed him. His curiosity for Black Magic lands him a deal with the devil where he is damned because of his decision and failure to accept salvation from the good angel who tries to save him. In exchange for his powers he is ordered to never speak of Christ and he to surrender his soul so that a servant of the devil, Mephistopheles, could serve him. Throughout the text, Faustus rejects the good angel and as a result, he is damned. Salvation, as in Everyman, depends on one’s own choices. Faustus made the choice to continue his bargain with the devil and descends to hell, without the option of salvation; by then it is too late. When Everyman is sent on his pilgrimage, it portrays the road that man travels to discover that his value does not lie in his worldly wealth, but his good deeds and knowledge. Even then, knowledge does not follow Everyman to the grave. Everyman is remembered by his good deeds which ascend with him to heaven.
The stories portray an ever long battle between good and evil, even at the closing moments before Faustus’s damnation—the characters always battle between what is good and unacceptable. The Good and Evil Angel constantly approach Doctor Faustus, but he listens to the Good angel while also conflicting with his conscious that wants to be saved. His curiosity and greed wants to experience more power offered from the Devil. He becomes angry because he will be condemned to hell due to his decision, but he still chooses to pursue black magic quite aware of his actions. Just as man who commits sin, man is fully aware of the sins that he commits, yet he chooses to sin regardless of the consequences, because there is always that chance of salvation that is at our own disposal, just as the Good angel. Man, as Faustus, continues to disregard the Good angel, realizing the mistake a moment too late when one is to be judged—that moment, in Everyman, where good deeds are accounted for and used to judge the mortal life. Every man does not realize his mistake until the mistake is made and once the mistake is made, it still takes divine intervention for man to realize and repent their mistakes. The moment that Faustus realizes his downfall, is the moment of death, a moment too late.
Although the Christine doctrine of salvation is plainly manifest in the Good Angel’s insistence that it is never too late to repent and in the Old Man’s vision of an angel hovering over Faustus’s head ‘with a vial full of precious grace’, there is always a catch. It is never too late ‘if Faustus can repent’. Much virtue in if. (Marlowe 29)
Man is constantly faced with sin, but their salvation has no value without repenting. If man does not repent, then when they are faced with Christ, like Everyman, their good deeds are outweighed by sin and therefore cannot aid their salvation. Faustus’s failure to repent and his constant rejection of the Good Angel sentence him to a damnation that he cannot escape. At this point, his good and any repenting that he might utter is of no use. Everyman and Faustus represent man and their quest for salvation, as man is judged on their character and nothing more, eliminating the worldly materials and power that they possess. Losing sight of Christ through their mortal lives, Everyman and Faustus are faced with their judgment. Everyman gains salvations through recognitions of his wrongs and he and his good deeds ultimately ascend to heaven. On the other hand, Faustus fails to take action against his wrongdoing when he deals with the devil, and does not repent; therefore he receives no mercy and descends to hell. Although each character receives a different fate, both characterize the pivotal moment in every man’s life where they have to face judgment. Like most mortal men who bathe in sin, they fail to see the fault in their actions as they take place, but put a man’s life on the line and he will suddenly find himself at the mercy of his sins; even then one might not realize Christ’s attempt to save man when offered.

Works Cited
Cunningham, Lawrence & John J. Reich. Culture and Values: A Survey of the Humanities.
Thomson Wadsworth, 2006.
"Everyman." The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt and M.H.
Abrams. New York: Norton, 1995. 463-484.
Marlowe, Christopher. Doctor Faustus A- and B- texts (1604, 1616). Trans. David M. Bevington
& Eric Rasmussen. Manchester: Manchester University Press , 1993.
Marlowe, Christopher. "Doctor Faustus." The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed.
Logan, George M., Stephen Greenblatt, Barbara K. Lewalski & Katherine Maus. New York: Norton, 1995. 1023-1057.
Spinrad, Phoebe. The Summons of Death on the Medieval and Renaissance English Stage. Ohio
State University Press, 1987.

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