Close Reading Analysis. A theological comparison of Philip and Waleran in Ken Follett's "Pillars of the Earth."

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In medieval times, the church played a vital role in society. Philip of Gwynedd and Waleran Bigod are both prominent men of God. They had similar occupations, but fulfilled their duties differently. Though both men held eminent positions, they dealt with their power in very different ways. Waleran took every opportunity to elevate himself. Philip, on the other hand, was content with whatever power he received, leaving the most important decisions to God.

Throughout the book, Philip was at times afraid of positions of power, and always had qualms about accepting them. When Abbot Peter appointed him Prior of St-John-in-the-Forest, he was surprised that he would be appointed to such a high position at such a young age, and had doubts about his own ability to restore the small Priory. Abbot Peter reassured him that God would assist him in the process, but Philip was quick to retort with the question "And if you were wrong?"1 Though he feared power in the beginning, Philip gradually became more accepting and more confident about his ability to assert control over others.

His ambition to reform Kingsbridge Priory proved this, as he thought to himself, "[t]here would be a new prior, new hope--"2 upon Prior James' death. Under Philip's administration, Kingsbridge had been a victim of many devestating attacks, both physical and political. Phillip revealed an important side of him when William Hamleigh attempted to sack Kingsbridge a second time, but failed miserably. The townspeople made him a hero, but he knew in his mind that "it was not he who had saved them, they had done it themselves." Despite his new position as Prior, he was still as humble as his Benedictine brothers.

Waleran Bigod constantly sought to raise his status in society. During the Kingsbridge Priory elections, he offered Philip...