Eli’s Aspirations

Eli Sunday son of  Abel Sunday was not so different from any of Daniel Plainview’s competitors. He had similar aspirations, seeking a way to stamp his authority on the country and make a better living out of the new oil land. Eli approached the matter a little differently. Paul Thomas Anderson parallels capitalism and religion in the hearts of modern Americans; salvation either in God or in the Dollar. The underlying theme of the film becomes a battle between Daniel pitting Eli for the town, but Daniel didn’t solely despise Eli because he purported to the afterlife and spirits. Daniel found the idea  stupid but as people got swept up into Eli’s show Daniel quickly realized it as a valid being. It wouldn’t have mattered if it were religion or prospectors, Daniel would have seen them as a threat and challenge, and he would have set out to defeat them.

The thing that was especially troublesome for Daniel was that he couldn’t just get rid of this young preacher.  Eli was physically weak and inexperienced but had the strength of numbers through his church folk, an advantage that wouldn’t allow Daniel to take him out. The greatest moment for Eli was the Baptism of Daniel. It was  his chance to humiliate Daniel and take revenge by putting on exaggerated theatrics that it almost becomes comedic. The emotion drawn from Daniel was shame, repentance and anger. Daniel only did it to get the pipeline but wasn’t going to forget what Eli had done to him, unaware he would get his revenge thirty years later.