Damascus Gate

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate April 2001

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Wanting to fit into a part of society is a part of human nature. People find safety and security in belonging. Despite its many uncertainties, religion is the largest organization that people belong to. To accommodate all its members and their own views, there are many different types of religion. Each consists of different beliefs and customs.

The uncertainty that comes with having a religion is counteracted with the promise of bigger and better things. It proposes a deal or a package that may seem too good to pass up. However, those who have a religion are constantly looking for reassurance. On the other hand there are the people that need proof that there is something greater out there first, before they select the religion they will belong to.

Chris Lucas, the main character of Damascus Gate, by Robert Stone, is in such a search. He is a strong willed character who is very determined.

It is clear that he is yearning to be a part of something. Although Chris Lucus is in Jerusalem to research Jerusalem syndrome, he has taken on a personal journey to uncover his own beliefs. He is trying to find fulfillment, which seems to be the actual journey itself. The quest that he is undergoing has turned into his religion.

Chris Lucas is from America and was raised with a Catholic education. His father was a well-respected and intelligent individual. Chris moved to an apartment in Jerusalem where he began writing about The Jerusalem Syndrome. He is constantly observing others who visit the diversely religious city with the hope of affirming their beliefs. Chris opens his home to those who need shelter and in turn, some of his visitors share with him information they have obtained or come to figure out themselves on their journey. Chris can easily relate to some of the people that he takes in because they are on a quest much like his own. They provide both reassurance and motivation.

An additional source of motivation for Chris is Sonia, the main object of his interest. Like Chris, Sonia is from America and does not affiliate with one religion. Sonia does not acknowledge that her upbringing affects her beliefs until late in the novel, when she questions what religion she is labeled. In a conversation, she mentions her mother's religion. She said, her mother was Jewish so maybe she was too. This shows that she has a lot of uncertainty about what she should believe. She shares characteristics similar to those of Raziel. He was a fellow musician who also used drugs. Raziel is a part of the Sufi, which is a religion for people who have tried other things.

All of these characters are in search of their religion; however, Chris differs from them because would not be satisfied if he associated himself with one religion. He is obtaining as much information of different practices and beliefs first, with the thought that he may one day affiliate with one of them. This however, is highly unlikely because of his personality and the satisfaction that he gets in his adventurous journey.

Another character in the story by the name of De Kuff once said that people should, "Believe only what you know." This comment was directed to Sonia, however can apply to Chris as well. It is difficult to unlearn things that you were taught when you were young. So even if Chris found a practice of faith that he was comfortable with he would still hold values and beliefs that he was taught years before.

Chris an intellectual young man in a place and time where religion in the center of everyday life. It is only natural for him to feel the need to fit into an established organization. However, he possesses many qualities and characteristic that show he would have difficulty accepting a religion in its entirety. He is so involved in this search that it has become the center of his life and it has become his religion. He is trying to find fulfillment however, the process itself can be just that.