Friday, October 21, 2011

Chapter 19 intepretation

The Book of Genesis, by R. Crumb, has been criticized for its interpretations of the bible by many leading religious groups. Interpretations are to indicate that person’s particular idea of the topic but when it comes to religion, it can be a stickier situation. In chapter 19, sexually explicit illustrations are shown of Lot and his two daughters displaying nudity as well as having sexual intercourse. I feel as if Crumb portrays Lot’s expressions to be helpless and brainless while his two daughters look very manly and full of greed. “Our father is old, and there is no man on earth to come to come to bed with us like the way of all the world!”
        At the start of the Chapter, Lot gives his God’s messengers a place to stay for the night but it ends up being a disaster. The townsmen of Sodom demand they meet the men that he had brought into the city and instead of doing so; Lot informs them he has two daughters with no men and that they may have them and do as they please. The idea that Lot is allowing for his only two daughters to be raped by the townsmen, I feel this is to be a sin in God’s eye. Towards the conclusion of the story, the daughters discuss how their father is becoming old and they should take from him an alive seed due to them being possibly the only humankind still around. In Alter’s translation, it “equally reinforces the connection with the global cataclysm of the Flood story: she looks out upon the desolate landscape after the destruction of the cities of the plain and imagines that she, her sister, and their father are the sole survivors of humankind” (pg. 88). So for two consecutive nights, the daughters get their father drunk and take from him alive seeds.
        I think what Crumb did with his images allowed me to see what interpretations he may have been trying to get at. I seem to think there is a slight disconnection in interpretation as Crumb seems to illustrate the daughters to be independent and manly where their father is weak and cowardly. In Alter’s translation he talks about how two people of incest perhaps shows their purity or, their will to look for survival. If we take these ideas to the next level, we can probably get some interesting interpretation.
        When we look at this idea of Lot being cowardly and weak, we can take this back to the beginning of the story were he gives his daughters up for sexual pleasures which I feel in a way this is his cowardly side coming out. In the end he is too weak and he unwillingly takes the virginity from his very own daughters which I believe his due to his harsh behavior in the beginning. It is like the saying goes; do to others as you would want them to do to you. Obviously Lot was not thinking that his actions could come back and haunt him. I think a reason Crumb illustrated the father and daughters the way he did was to show how being a coward for your actions can cause you to become weak and clueless where if you are portrayed as manly and daring you are most likely to be an independent individual. If the daughters’ appearance would have not been so bold looking, I feel they would not have been able to survive on their own due to their fathers actions.
One last interpretation I also feel that we could relate this chapter to is the story Adam and Eve. God created Adam and Eve allowing them to live a good and plentiful life where with Lot and his daughters’ case they were spared their life’s and told to move to the high country to continue on where evil will not preside. Each story there was sin being (i.e. eating from the apple tree and getting their father drunk while taking from him alive seeds) committed and the acknowledgment that they were the only humans of their kind alive. In the end, they were both given the ability to bore children and supply the world with more of their kind.
Interpretations of the bible can be tricky and hard to accomplish. I believe Crumb and Alter each do a good job in their own way through illustrations and translations that give the readers a better understanding of what is being told in The Book of Genesis. Although it may seem to be a bit graphic for peoples liking when we think in terms of the bible, but all each of these authors are doing is displaying what is most likely the truth.


  1. I'm having a little difficulty isolating your argument in this essay. I think the problem is not that there is no thesis but rather that you have many half-formed theses. Here are the three main theses that I thought were important:

    You begin to argue that Alter portrays the daughters of Lot as pure but Crumb portrays them as "independent and manly".

    Along those same lines you talk about how Crumb shows Lot to be weak and cowardly; I believe you mean to contrast this with Alters portrayal of Lot, but you never explicitly state Alter's position for contrast.

    Here you connect the story of Lot with that of Adam and Eve. I believe you are trying to establish a common theme between being the last humans on earth, sin, and reproduction.

    These three theses are all pretty good, but you must choose only one. Once you have chosen which of these you plan to build your essay around, you should dive deeper into your argument. Here is an example using number [1] above:

    -First give us lots of evidence to establish that Crumb portrays the daughters as independent and manly, then give us evidence that Alter portrays them as pure. Now that you have established that Crumb's version is different from that of Alter's, try to develop an explanation as to why. Finally you need to explore how this difference in interpretation affects our reading of the rest of the text, ie generalize your findings.

    Finally, when writing your essay I would suggest either first making an outline or a flow diagram or something; i found it very difficult to follow the logic/order of your arguments.

    --Please don't take these suggestions as insults, I was just trying to provide as much constructive criticism as possible to help on revisions :)

  2. First question. Who, exactly, has criticized Crumb's Genesis, and why does it matter? I'm neither confirming nor denying - I simply want to understand your exact claim (I'm not familiar with any substantial blowback against it, although maybe I've had my head under a rock).

    Like Anthony, I thought you were trying to do quite a few things at once. Rather than repeating his analysis of this problem (which seems to be me very much on track), I'll go in a related but somewhat different direction.

    "Obviously Lot was not thinking that his actions could come back and haunt him. I think a reason Crumb illustrated the father and daughters the way he did was to show how being a coward for your actions can cause you to become weak and clueless where if you are portrayed as manly and daring you are most likely to be an independent individual..." To me, this is the most interesting of the several arguments that you work with. As I believe Alter makes clear (and its certainly a commonplace of Biblical interpretation one way or the other), Lot's offering up of his daughters is very problematic at best, although also it has its clear origins in the ethics of the time (the rape of guests being even more horrifying than the rape of family members), and it seems very reasonable to understand that his incest results at least partially from bad karma (or however you want to say it) for offering up his daughters in the first place.

    If this is what you're getting at, though, you spend too much time and effort getting there, especially since your own unique insight (into Crumb's portrayal of the daughters independent and manly) gets lost in the noise.

    My suggestions: first, as Anthony says, this needs streamlined. I'd suggest a clearer focus on the masculinity/independence of Lot's daughters, one which would clarify whether you see that as interpreting, contradicting, etc., Alter's translation (I wanted to see you do something with the daughters teaching their sons archery while Lot himself just seemingly sits around). This needs to become more clearly about Crumb's reading of / response to Alter, or your reading of / response to Crumb. I suspect you have trouble clarifying your focus because you're not 100% sure of what you consider ot be important here - once you've decided what's important, everything should get easier.