Friday, November 18, 2011

Revision 2 - Genesis

Throughout the book, Crumb seemed to put an extreme emphasis on the unforgiving nature of God and the almost childlike revenge seeking if something doesn’t go the way He wants it to. In Alter’s interpretation, the words were just that, words. They did not have any underlying emotions attached to them. He tells us what God does and that’s all we get. When Crumb takes his own interpretation of Alter’s work, there is so much more under the image of God. To be frank, I think Crumb does a very good job at showing God as a daemon from Hell. Not only Crumb, but there are other historical relations to the way God acts to justify why one would think he is shown as such a negative character.

From the beginning, mostly all the images of God are shown to have an angry face or a face that brings about fear from those who gaze into it. A very important interpretation in Crumb’s portrayal of God as a daemon from Hell is from Chapter 19. Alter’s simple words of fire and brimstone were given a very extensive meaning with the type of images Crumb portrays those words with. Alter’s version of Genesis has the phrase, “And the Lord rained upon Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord from the heavens” (Alter 88).1 If we take the last part of the phrase, “from the Lord from the heavens”, the direct meaning of this phrase, in one sense, could mean that the fire was sent from God who lives in heaven. But Crumb decides to take this phrase and adds a few words into it that changes the meaning of it slightly from the direct meaning we described above. Crumb makes the last part of the phrase to read as “from the Lord from out of the heavens”.2 By adding the words ‘out of’, Crumb just made the words into a definite interpretation of the fire and destruction coming from heaven itself. As if stressing the cruelty of it all, Crumb draws a different frame for each of the last parts. “from the Lord” phrase is dedicated with showing a huge crowd of people clustered together having flames falling on them. If one can see it another way, it could almost resemble the holocaust killings. The part “from out of the heavens” probably has the most important picture dedicated to it that shows clearly why I think Crumb is trying to show God as the daemon from Hell.2 The flames falling, the dark outlines of people on fire, with fire everywhere just gives off the feeling of what one might picture Hell to look like. Also the fact that Crumb changed the words from “from the heavens” to “from out of the heavens” shows the fact that he is emphasizing the connection of fire and heaven. Since fire is usually correlated with Hell, we are given an image of him trying to show us that he believes Heaven to be Hell at this point.

One would say Hitler was a real daemon. He was unmercifully vengeful against anyone who wasn’t a Nazi. He believed in “racial hygiene” and killed children who had physical and mental disabilities. Also in order to expand the German empire and acquire all the land around him, he killed over fourteen million people including 7 million Jews. The mass murder of these innocent people was dubbed the Holocaust. Vast groups of people were gassed to death, while others died of hunger and starvation.3 Only Hitler’s select few were allowed to live. Even his involvement in World War II just served to make his image of a daemon grow. The strategic aerial bombardment that Hitler ordered onto Britain and other countries was just plain cruel. The bombs were ordered to be thrown in the civilian parts of the country. In order to make the Polish surrender, Hitler even went as far as to order the prevention of civilians form leaving the city.4 You might ask how this is anyway related to Genesis and the relation of God being portrayed as a daemon. If we look closely and compare the many cruel and heartless acts of Hitler to those done by God in Genesis, we can make a pretty strong argument that they both aren’t much different from each other.

From the beginning, God was very picky and highly authoritative on how things should run. If something doesn’t go the way he wanted it to, he would get angry and destroy something. He created man and told him spread his seed in all land and to rule it. Man did as was told and spread and naturally fights broke out and disorder ensued. Once again God decides to interfere and decides to get rid of everyone in the world just because he didn’t like all the fighting. Like Hitler, he chose the few that he liked, Noah, his family and 2 of each animal, and decided to kill the rest of the population which can be compared to the 14 million killed by Hitler. Just like Hitler who used gas to commit the mass murders, in order to kill everyone, God brought forth the great flood and destroyed everyone except for Noah who is safe in the Ark that God made him build. Just like Hitler’s next act of evil, the bombardment of innocent civilian settlements, God goes ahead and lets his anger take over and destroys an entire city of innocent people. Recalling the interpretation from the second paragraph, God lets loose the fire balls from the air as the Germans let loose their air bombs onto innocent humans in both cases.

By comparing and overlapping the various actions that Hitler, and Crumb and Alter’s version of the God in Genesis did, one can correlate that if Hitler was viewed as a devil is a majority of the people’s eyes, God having had committed acts very similar to Hitler’s. These are a couple the strongest instances of many in which Crumb show his negative interpretation of Alter’s text on behalf of God. Could Crumb have also been motivated to interpret the Genesis on basis of Hitler as I just did? It is a very likely possibility that would be very interesting to ask him if ever given a chance.

1. Alter, Robert. Genesis: Translation and Commentary. New York: Norton, 1997. Print.

2. "THE BOOK OF GENESIS, ILLUSTRATED BY R. CRUMB." Last Gasp Books. Web. 22 Oct. 2011. .

3. "Adolf Hitler : Biography." Spartacus Educational. Web. 18 Nov. 2011. .

4. "Strategic Bombing during World War II." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 18 Nov. 2011. .

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1 comment:

  1. 1) The good. The broad idea of interpreting Crumb's book as, at its heart, a critique of organized religion (or Judaism/Christianity in particular) is a fine one. Your pivotal example of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is, I think, the correct starting point for this argument: Crumb does a great job of emphasizing the divine violence without adding or inventing anything.

    2) The bad. Hitler analogies are poisonous, because they inevitably tend to make us think less, not more. We all know that Hitler=Evil; in fact, it sometimes seems that people have trouble articulating supreme evil in any other way than through Hitler. But the analogy itself is clumsy at best. After all, the US killed far more people through aerial bombardment in WWII than Germany did (my point being that, in some ways, the U.S.'s destruction of Tokyo/Hiroshima/Dresden/etc. might be closer to the divine destruction of S&G than anything Hitler did. I don't care about that claim, really - my point is that the Hitler analogy is in no way constructive. It shuts an interesting essay down just as it was getting started. If you want to argue that the God of Genesis is evil, do that! Use the text, not a sledgehammer.

    The ugly: Clumsy research and excessive brevity take away from what your focus should have been: a sustained argument (more examples! more attention to the illustrations!) that Crumb is subtly portraying God as evil.

    Short version: a bold premise and good potential, but hasty, indifferent execution of that premise.