This mini-essay explores how fear is used to control a small religiously fanatic community in "The Rapture of Canaan" by Sheri Reynolds.

Essay by CanadianGirlHigh School, 12th grade January 2003

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Using Fear to Control

Herman Langston dominates the isolated South Carolina community of believers, enforcing rigid behavioral laws and meting out harsh punishments for transgressions. This journal will discuss how he wrongly uses fear to govern, and ultimately control the community of the church of Fire and Brimstone.

The tribulation, according to Grandpa Herman, founder of Fire and Brimstone, will be an ugly time: "He said that we'd run out of food. That big bugs would chase us around and sting us with their tails... He said we'd turn on the faucet in the bathroom and find only blood running out... He said evil multitudes would come unto us and cut off our limbs, and that we wouldn't die..." (Reynolds 65). Such talk of damnation weighs heavy on the mind of Ninah Huff, the 15-year-old narrator of Sheri Reynolds's novel, The Rapture of Canaan. Ninah even tries to avert her sinnful thoughts, about her prayer partner James, by sleeping on nettles and walking on pecan shells in her shoes, simply because she is afraid that the wrath of God will strike her down, or Grandpa Herman...

whoever reaches her first.

Fear is the main tactic that Grandpa Herman uses to keep his religious followers 'in-line', especially children. He is the ultimate power in the community, and he criminally uses the Bible in a most unmerciful way to keep his dictatorship-like rule in-tact: "I guess you could say the church doctrine came from Grandpa Herman's own sensibilities. He used the Bible, of course, but only the parts he liked. He had a habit of altering the verses just a little to make them match his own beliefs. " (Reynolds 14).

After his multiple-hour long speeches on sin and how a sinful person will be left behind in...