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The first part of the novel reveals beautifully the thoughts and feelings of an adolescent who is repressed by the autocratic rule and religious dictums of his father. John desires the pleasures of the world and the comforts of life like any other boy of his age but is afraid of offending the Lord by indulging in his whims. This dilemma between the worldly and spiritual tortures him and he feels troubled.
Part One is appropriately entitled ĎSeventh Day.í The Seventh day is the last day of the week and also the day of judgement. Johnís birthday falls on a Saturday and on this day he realizes that he has to decide his own destiny, instead of being led by his father. He hates his father for his authoritarian ways and thus, feels the need to rebel against the norms laid down by his father. On his fourteenth birthday, he passes judgement on his father. He considers his parent as evil.
The five biblical lines quoted below the title:
And the spirit and the bride say, Come
And let him that hearth say, Come
And let him that is athirst, Come
And whosoever will, let him take
The water of life freely.
enhance the meaning of this part of the novel. John is forced to follow the path of god by his father and the church. However, instead of obeying his father meekly, he feels the need to taste the pleasures of life. Instead of treading the path of spiritual glory, he decides to drink the "water of life freely."
The couplet that ushers in Part One is also significant.
I looked down the line
And I wondered.
These two lines can be interpreted in more ways than one. "I looked down the line" might refer to the line of worldly men and women who profess faith in god but desire the pleasures of life. John is confused by this dichotomy. "I looked down the line" might also mean that John looks at the line of human race and wonders why the Whites were treated differently from the blacks. Finally, "I looked down the line" might refer to Johnís viewing the line of his growth from childhood to adolescence. Each happening in his life and encounter with different people makes him wonder about the meaning of life.
As John emerges out of childhood to enter adolescence, he becomes aware of the hypocrisy of people who assume a superior attitude because they are inclined towards religion. His father talks of sin and punishment and calls himself the agent of god. However, he is more of a sinner than others. He is intolerant towards thew views of his family members and ill-treats them if they raise their voice against him. He indulges in the worldly pleasures secretively, while the common man enjoys himself openly. John is able to see through the mask of his father. Hence, he hates him and desires to rebel against him. He wants to enjoy the comforts of life and taste success.