The Seven Deadly Sins in Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead

In Christianity there are said to be seven deadly sins which are the actions and behaviors that God is believed to hate the most. These seven sins are the disordered and perverted side of all things good and they go as follows: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride. These sins are the focal point of many famous historical works but how do they fit in Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead? Maybe a lot more than you’d think.

Greed & Gluttony

In terms of their nature, greed and gluttony are very closely related, being sins of overconsumption to the point of waste and hoarding by means of violence. In the novel they remain just as close. One of Janina’s biggest triggers is the hunting of animals, especially for sport. Hunting is a dearly held tradition in the town but the hunters take it to extremes, killing animals and leaving them in the snow or simply wasting parts that could be utilized. The men in the novel end up dead because of their actions regarding this. Innerd is introduced as “that rich fellow” (129) and when referring to the money found on the Commandant’s corpse, Janina is sure that it was a bribe from Innerd (131), who coincidentally turns up dead not long after. It was not necessary to mention that Innerd was known for his wealth and that was actually the biggest indicator of his future death. On the flip side of this is Janina’s vegetarianism because for each mortal sin there is a capital virtue. 

Lust & Sloth

Lust is in the same group of sins as greed and gluttony with all of them being sins of desire and while this sin is not very important for Janina’s purpose, there are still some interesting examples throughout the novel. While it may be quite a stretch, it’s interesting that when Boros is explaining beetles and pheromones to Janina, she makes note of it and then uses the animals’ reproduction instincts to later kill someone.

Sloth is another sin that doesn’t play a vital role but it could be defined as either indifference to duties or overall laziness. This could be analyzed through Janina’s Ailments or her beliefs that humans have some sort of duty or way they need to act within nature. Again, that’s entirely up for interpretation but Janina does express disdain on numerous occasions for those not only actively killing animals but those who tolerate and even encourage it; she may see it as the shirking of duties.


Envy is one of the more complex sins and it is characterized by selfish desire and want and especially covetous feelings toward another. Envy is not so blatant in the novel but it can be seen in Janina’s feelings about animals; she feels such a deep connection with them and a desire to protect them to the point that she is nearing envy. And at a certain point she isn’t even envious, she just believes she is an animal, or at least a conduit for them. These feelings about animals play a large role in her motivation to kill.


Pride is the original and supposedly worst of the seven deadly sins. Pride is the opposite of virtuous humility and is defined by extreme selfishness and putting your own desires first. We see this often in the novel, especially in the townspeople and hunters with their disregard for nature and life other than their own. When Janina confronts a group of hunters in the woods, they attempt to justify their actions by saying they’re well within their rights to do what they want and this infuriates Janina. And while Janina has a deep connection with nature and animals, she can be quite prideful herself; she quite literally kills multiple men because she was putting her desires first.


 Wrath is most often associated with hatred and a desire to enact revenge on another person, making it probably the most prevalent sin in the novel. Janina’s feelings of hatred and anger are explicitly mentioned dozens of times and after all, it is what drives her to kill. In the Old Testament, God is known for his wrath to be precise and most of all, provoked. God’s wrath is a response to evil, it is not portrayed as retribution, but as righteous judgment. Janina may vehemently reject traditional ideas of religion but she’s certainly a believer in divine judgment and punishment. Does Janina not act as God would, doling out punishments for the desecration of holiness? She more so is concerned with the desecration of nature and animals but the principle is eerily similar. 

I suppose the point to take from Janina’s actions is that when men behave like animals, you put them down like animals.

One thought on “The Seven Deadly Sins in Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead

  1. Violet B

    I love the way you connected the novel to the seven deadly sins. I also never thought of Janina being envious of nature before, its a very interesting interpretation. It gives the killings done by Janina a whole new meaning.


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