Everyday Theology: Downton Abbey was good entertainment

"I could relate to the characters and their struggles. Themes of change and transformation united us."

“All’s well that end’s well”, “everything comes out in the wash”, and “they all lived happily ever after” describe the grand finale of Downton Abbey, the wildly popular British period drama about life in one of England’s grand country houses.

I was hooked on Downton from the very first episode. The acting, the set, the costumes (could there have been more beautiful dresses than the ones on display in the finale?), the character development, the social commentary, and even the incredible plot twists that occasionally tried my patience, kept me engaged.

But I appreciated Downton for other reasons, too. I could relate to the characters and their struggles. Themes of change and transformation united us.

It was easy to empathize with Carson, the butler, who was suspicious of the telephone, or with Mrs. Patmore, the cook who was afraid of an electric mixer. In 1995 when we bought our first home computer, I resisted my children’s pleas to sign up for the Internet; I felt like the Dowager Countess when she quipped, “First electricity. Now telephones. Sometimes I feel as if I were living in an H.G. Wells novel.”

It was difficult, too, for the characters to adapt to changing social and moral norms. After the Great War, the idyllic and idle existence of the privileged crumbled beneath the aspirations of a generation that fought in the trenches and kept the home fires burning. Dissatisfied with the roles thrust upon them by an accident of birth, servants like Daisy looked to education to change her lot, while Ladies Mary and Edith challenged conventions to become successful businesswomen.

As the familiar gave way to new possibilities, interior struggles reshaped characters from the inside out. Haughty Lady Mary became less selfish, mean-spirited Barrow grew in kindness, and “Poor Little Me” Lady Edith discovered her self-worth. Transformation, more than anything, kept me watching Downton Abbey religiously on a Sunday night.

Speaking of which, religion was curiously absent from Downton, except in a nominal way. Values, such as decency, kindness, loyalty, kinship, and concern for others, called forth the best from characters as they struggled to overcome their pettiness. And Christian rituals, even when undertaken out of a sense of tradition rather than conviction, marked life’s rites of passage. Baptism celebrated birth, Christian burial accompanied death, and wedding ceremonies united lovers. Prayer too made an occasional appearance. With an honesty and poignancy that echoes the reality of prayer, Lady Mary knelt to pray for Matthew. “Dear Lord, I don’t pretend to have much credit with you. I’m not even sure that you’re there. But if you are, and if I’ve ever done anything good, I beg you to keep him safe.”

In Downton Abbey’s final season, characters embraced the winds of change; even Carson began to come around, wistfully admitting, “The world is a different place from the way it was.” But it was Violet, the Dowager Countess, who once again hit the nail on the head. “It makes me smile, the way we drink every year to what the future may bring.”

While the future is uncertain, change is inevitable. Downton Abbey wrapped that theme up beautifully in the form of good entertainment.

Trail BC resident Louise McEwan is a freelance writer with degrees in English and Theology. Her blog is www.faithcolouredglasses.blogspot.com. Contact her at mcewan.lou@gmail.com

Just Posted

Trail vet says voting system has worked for 150 years

Letter to the Editor from Vaughn Budd of Trail

Kootenay employers ready to meet job seekers at Black Press career fair

Dozens of companies will attend the event on Nov. 15 at the Ktunaxa Nation Building in Cranbrook

Sandblasting Silver City skate sign

The Trail Sk8 Park was closed on Thursday so workers could ready a sign for painting

Area A seeks views on cannabis rules

The public hearing for Area A residents will go Tuesday, Nov. 13 at 5 p.m.

Trail liquor store held up Friday night

The perpetrator was brandishing a weapon that appeared to be a gun, according to the Trail RCMP

VIDEO: Amazon to split second HQ between New York, Virginia

Official decision expected later Tuesday to end competition between North American cities to win bid and its promise of 50,000 jobs

Disabled boy has ‘forgiven’ bullies who walked on him in stream, mom says

A Cape Breton teen who has cerebral palsy was told to lie in a stream as other kids walked over him

Letters shed light on state of mind of B.C. mom accused of daughter’s murder

Trial of South Surrey mother Lisa Batstone begins in BC Supreme Court

Vancouver man must pay $22,000 after breaking strata rules

Peter Gordon took his fight over his rented condo to the civil resolution tribunal, but lost

B.C. cheese linked to 5 E. coli cases

People are asked to throw out or return ‘Qualicum Spice’ cheese

Canada Post no longer guarantees delivery times amid more rotating strikes

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers closed two major processing centres in Ontario and B.C.

B.C. city councillor resigns as AutismBC director amid SOGI controversy

AutismBC president Gary Robins says Laurie Guerra’s resignation is effective Nov. 12

McGill students vote overwhelmingly to change Redmen team nickname

Student union held a referendum after a campaign by Indigenous students

B.C. university pride group replaces white supremacy posters

Around 50 people walked through downtown Victoria to share posters of love

Most Read