Journey is, among other things, a record of his coming to terms with God.
From its very first step, his Journey is one of faith, a faith that he has lost in the war and is on the road to recovering throughout the story. We know little of Main’s life prior to his Journey, but what little we do learn tells us that he was a Christian, at least in his youth. We are told that Main’s family built the chapel where Dad’s father preached (82) and that in his youth he had been taught and believed the basics of the Christian faith.Specifically, we are told that he believed in the immortality of the soul (14), that he believed in heaven (17), and that he believed we are all children of God (88). However, as Inman plans to step out the window of the hospital and begin his journey home, he is in a ravaged spiritual state. The horrors of what he has both seen and experienced in the war have “burned away’ some of these early Christian beliefs (17). He no longer believes in the platitudes and easy answers given to the problems of life by the Christians around him whose lives do not seem to show a connection between their beliefs and their actions.This type of Christian is represented by Vessel, the preacher who has impregnated his lover and who attempts to murder her in order to cover it up.
Even after Vessel is discovered and thrown out of town and claims to be a changed man, his life does not show evidence of this. He first attempts to rob a store, then he sleeps with a prostitute, and later fantasize about living a wandering life punctuated by one-night stands. As Inman notes: “There were many preachers the like of Vessel who swore they could save the souls of the fullest kinds of sinner But those men could not even save their wan selves from living bad lives” (315).
Another example of the kind of Christian thinking that Inman no longer believes in is that of General Robert E. Lee. Lee’s thinking is representative of much Christian belief of that time in that “he looked on war as an instrument for clarifying God’s obscure will” (8). Inman distances himself from this thinking. He “worried that following such logic would soon lead one to declare the victor of every brawl and dogfight as God’s certified champion” (8). Thus both the horror of war and the inconsistency of theChristian witness he has received lead him to reject what he had been taught without yet having anything to put in its place.
His Journey will be one in which he attempts to discover what, if anything, he can replace these rejected beliefs with. Inman begins his Journey both physically and spiritually decimated. His vision of the future is essentially hopeless. All he can see when he looks ahead is a world in which everything that makes life worth living is gone (2).
He tells the blind man outside the hospital that he has been turned “hateful” by what he has seen (6).In describing his wan spiritual condition, he uses words like “torn apart” “burned out” “empty,” “blasted” “lonesome” “estranged” and even “dead”: Inman guessed Swimmer’s spells were right in saying a man’s spirit could be torn his spirit, it seemed, had been about burned out of him but he was yet walking. Feeling empty, however, as the core of a big black-gum tree His spirit, he feared, had been blasted away so that he had become lonesome and estranged from all around him It seemed a poor swap to find that the only way one might keep from fearing death was to act numb and set apart as if dead already. 6) In fact, Inman doubts that he will ever “heal up and feel whole” again (18). Main’s spiritual struggle is not merely a battle with his own inner demons. The narrative makes it explicit that Main’s main struggle is with God himself.
Inman says that he feels “like God’s most marauded banning’ (53). To be marauded is to be raided, violated, or abused. A banning is a young child, but the word also has a hint of illegitimacy about it, being related to the word bastard. Thus Inman feels like he is an illegitimate and abused child of God. Earlier in a conversation with a blind man,Inman had been stunned to discover that no human being had put out the man’s eyes; he had been born that way.
Inman asks himself, “How did you find someone to hate for a thing that Just was? ” (12). One answer, of course is God. Like Job, whose portrait Inman will later confront, Inman holds God responsible for the way things are, if not blaming God, then at least holding him accountable when affliction strikes. For example, as Inman travels through the woods, he sees a meteor shower and decides that it has been aimed at him, and he feels that he is “the butt of the celestial realm” (55).