Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner

Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner Literary Elements



Setting and Context

Scotland; 1687-1712; 1823

Narrator and Point of View

There are multiple points of view. The Editor's Narrative is introduced in the first-person, then told in the third-person omniscient. Robert's memoirs are first-person. The Editor returns to his first-person narrative at the end.

Tone and Mood

The Editor's Narrative: logical, objective, and explanatory.
The Memoirs: fraught, emotional, histrionic, zealous, and gloomy.

Protagonist and Antagonist

Protagonist: George. Antagonist: Robert; Gil-Martin.

Major Conflict

The major conflict is why Robert is doing the things he is doing–is he mentally deranged? Is he plagued by the devil or an evil spirit? The conflict between Robert and George is inextricably related to this question as well.


The climax, which is rather difficult to pinpoint in a novel structured like this, is most likely the moment in Robert's memoirs when Robert and Gil-Martin kill George.


-The night before George's death, the Editor writes "Alas, what short-sighted improvident creatures we are, all of us; and how often does the evening cup of joy lead to sorrow in the morning!" (41.)
-The first time Robert meets Gil-Martin, he has "a certain consciousness that I was not thus to get free of him" (91).


-The Editor's comment at the end of the novel that he does not understand the narrative is certainly an understatement, as it is a crazy, confusing, and strange tale with very little way to ascertain the truth.


-When Wringhim says, "Yea, I will go in unto him, and confound him. I will lay the strong holds of sin and Satan as flat before my face as the dung that is spread out to fatten the land," he is referencing a phrase in the book of Jeremiah.
-John Barnet tells Wringhim that man's thoughts are vanity, which references Psalms 19:11.
-Robert glories in potentially being like Jehu, Cyrus, or Nebuchadnezzar, who were all heathen kings used by God to carry out his wrath.
-At the end of the novel Hogg uses himself as a real character, and alludes to Blackwell's magazines and its sensational, sometimes false, stories and submissions.
-There are more biblical allusions and allusions to the Protestant Reformation and Calvinism that could possibly be accounted for here; commons allusions include those about predestination, the infalliblity of the elect, salvation and grace, God's wrath and wickedness, etc.


See Imagery section of this Note.





Metonymy and Synecdoche



-"In short, Sir, you are a mildew—a canker-worm in the bosom of the Reformed Church, generating a disease of which she will never be purged, but by the shedding of blood" (15).
-"By that time he had pushed the bottle so long and so freely that its fumes had taken possession of every brain to such a degree that they held Dame Reason rather at the staff's end, overbearing all her counsels and expostulations." (41)