Sayers defined the specifically Deadly Sins as 'the fundamental bad habits of mind recognized and defined by the church as the well-heads from which all sinful behavior ultimately springs.' Sin, she believed, is tied to all human experience; she was therefore deliberate about crafting stories in which sin and consequence figured prominently. All of her major characters struggle with sin: Peter and Harriet in the Wimsey novels, William of Sens in The Zeal of Thy House
, Faustus in The Devil to Pay
, Judas in The Man Born to be King
. For Sayers, literature must relate holistically to the life of the reader, and therefore to his or her moral and spiritual self. She often criticized the mystery genre, for instance, because the central event, the murder, had become merely an occasion for the story, rather than a real moral evil with moral consequences. Sayers appealed as a writer in part because she perceived theology (and theology's explanation of sin) as the concrete basis of life, and made theology accessible to modern readers through real and imaginary worlds. In the words of Janice Brown,'She especially understood the concept of Sin and its philosophical and psychological implications for twentieth-century society as a whole.' Brown's book presents the exposition of sin in Sayers' poetry, novels and plays. 345 pp.
An Eighth Day View:
The impact of Dorothy L. Sayers's work is powerful one. She was a gifted artist who worked in many genres and addressed many issues, but her achievement goes beyond creative skill and variety of range. What she consistently communicates about Sin -- the basic problem of human existence -- provides a core of content which evokes, as she believed artistic work should, a spiritual "response in the lively soul" (The Zeal of Thy House).
Janice Brown examines Sayers's major works, beginning with her early poetry and moving through her works of fiction to the dramas, essays, and lectures written in the last years of her life. She illustrates how Sayers used popular genres to teach about sin and redemption, how she redefined the Seven Deadly Sins for the twentieth century, why she stopped writing mysteries, and her application of the concepts of sin and redemption to society as a whole. She also considers the relationship between Sayers's spiritual life and her work and traces Lord Peter Wimsey's change from worldliness to something approaching Christianity.
In Sayers's earlier work, particularly her fiction, the concept of the Seven Deadly Sins provides part of the background for her characterization, which is based on a Christian view of humanity as "fallen". In these works, Sayers considered the worst Sins to be the spiritual, or cold-hearted ones, particularly Pride (the root of all others) and Envy. In the dramatic and discursive works of her later years she is more direct and didactic; the Sin of Sloth becomes a major theme in this period.