Friday, October 21, 2011


Parts of the bible are considered by some to be relatively offensive to women mostly due to the time it was written in and also the fact that it was written solely by men. Crumb’s illustrations follow and enhance this in the section involving Rebekah. The text tells of Rebekah being judged and claimed as an object. Crumb takes these hints from the text and exaggerates them in his illustrations. Crumb also takes a moment to make a statement about the ideas about marriage at the time. Crumb takes what is already troubling about the bible and pushes to make it more obvious and add meaning.

The part where Abraham’s servant finds Rebekah is unsettling, both in the text and in the images, on the behalf of women. The servant’s mission was to find a suitable wife for Abraham’s son and apparently the criteria he was following was that the woman had to be pretty and a virgin. The second panel that has Rebekah shows her at the well filling up her water jug and in the background is the servant assumedly judging her and deciding that she is perfect for Isaac. The text says “and the young woman was very comely to look at, a virgin, no man had known her.” (Crumb) This panel is sandwiched between ones of the servant before and after he sees and chooses Rebekah. The next image where the servant asks her for some water, his signal for who he is picking, Crumb depicts Rebekah as if she has a relatively sheer top on. Crumb is over accenting her rather ample bosom in reference to her “very comely look.” This section is clearly objectifying women and crumb is following suit.

The next place that the story gets disturbing is when the servant just whips out a nose ring and some bracelets and claims her. There is a panel where the servant is nonchalantly putting a ring in her nose as he asks her who she is and if he can stay at her house. Rebekah just allows this to happen. There is no sign of a struggle and she is not even wincing from the piercing. This is probably apart of a cultural practice of the time, but as a modern-day reader with Crumb’s contemporary illustrations I am more offended then anything. Crumb depicts a completely submissive Rebekah in this image. It gets even worse on the next page. There is a panel where Rebekah goes home to show off her new “bling” to her family. She is walking in the door smiling and holding her bracelets up for display. It is in this image that Crumb really interprets and pushes the women issue. First we have her brother, he is grinning widely and staring directly at her gold jewelry. His facial expression seems to reflect the ideas of the male dominated society that the use for sisters is to marry them off into the richest families that can be found, and him gleefully staring at the gold on his sister’s wrist demonstrated that. Next we have her mom. She is grabbing the bracelets on Rebekah’s wrist, but her gaze is at her face. She may be staring at the huge ring that is now in her daughter’s nose, but she also has a skeptical look on her face. She seems to be happy about the gold her daughter is now sporting, but she looks like she wants details. She is not simply happy that she is going to marry a rich man. She seems to be asking if Rebekah knows what this means and hinting that she has no idea what she is in for. The last family member seems to be a younger sister. This girl has a look of shock on her face. She perhaps herself is too young to even consider marriage and is scared at the idea. She looks to have nothing but concern for Rebekah. She must see the piercing, but appears more startled that she has a piercing in the first place then excited about the prospect of marriage. She also has her hands in the position as if she is praying. It is as if Rebekah walks in the room and starts to explain her trip to the well and her sister instantly starts to worry and pray. This panel shows the different views of marriage from the day, but all that is written in the text is that she goes home to tell her family and that she has a brother named Laban. Crumb is clearly injecting something about the different perspectives on marriage at the time.

There are parts of genesis that can be considered offensive to women in modern day society. There are examples of women being lesser to men and the whole idea of marriage as an exchange of goods rather then a ceremony of love is clear in the text. What crumb does is takes some of the text and pushes it further. He literally depicts the things that the text suggest and makes them more concrete. In this section he is not drastically changing anything that the bible says, but rather pushing and emphasizing the issue to make it more obvious.

1 comment:

  1. I want to begin with what's best here. Your discussion of what Crumb does with the text, and how he pushes it, is extremely detailed and focused, and as such, I found it convincing. I could argue, and would if I had more energy, that you might be benefited from streamlining this discussion a little bit (for instance, doing more with some frames, and limiting others - your reading of Rebekah showing off her new bling was perhaps the best part), or, alternatively, from cleaning up the prose a little bit (a paragraph for each frame that really matters?). My point, though, is that although there's lots of room for improvement, your reading is fundamentally very strong.

    I think you fall a little short in articulating your argument, though. I feel like relating your argument to the film (which you may not have even seen yet) would have done a lot for you. After all, Crumb is someone whose portrayal of women has been very divisive (something which the movie brings out very effectively), and yet you seem to be very close to arguing that what he's doing is feminist or pseudo-feminist: bringing out our discomfort, and even Rebekah's mother's discomfort, with women-as-property.

    To put it another way: I think you could have gone a little "bigger", toward making some sort of claim about Crumb's relationship with feminism here, although it may not have been easy to do at this point. In any case, your argument seems a little smaller than your evidence warrants at this point.