Matters of marriage, the ethical versus the aesthetic, dread, and, increasingly, the severities of Christianity are pondered by Kierkegaard in this intense work.
The two volumes not only have a chronological relation but treat some of the same distinct themes. The first of the three discourses, "On the Occasion of a Confession," centers on stillness, wonder, and one's search for God--in contrast to the speechmaking on erotic love in "In Vino Veritas," part one of Stages. The second discourse, "On the Occasion of a Wedding," complements the second part of Stages, in which Judge William delivers a panegyric on marriage. The third discourse, "At a Graveside," sharpens the ethical and religious earnestness implicit in Stages's "'Guilty'/'Not Guilty'" and completes this collection.
In The Sickness unto Death, Kierkegaard moves beyond anxiety on the mental-emotional level to the spiritual level, where--in contact with the eternal--anxiety becomes despair. Both anxiety and despair reflect the misrelation that arises in the self when the elements of the synthesis--the infinite and the finite--do not come into proper relation to each other. Despair is a deeper expression for anxiety and is a mark of the eternal, which is intended to penetrate temporal existence.
Regarded as the father of Existentialism, Kierkegaard transformed philosophy with his conviction that we must all create our own nature; in this great work of religious anxiety, he argues that a true understanding of God can only be attained by making a personal "leap of faith."