Monday, October 13, 2014

Crumb's Views of Humanity

                The Book of Genesis Illustrated by R. Crumb is an illustrated version of the Book of Genesis, as the name would suggest. The Book of Genesis is the first book in the Hebrew Bible, as well as the Christian Old Testament. The book deals with the creation of the world and the issues with early mankind. Since the text is so old, it is possible for people to see different meanings of certain aspects of the text. These debatable changes in meaning can change how the entire work is viewed. In the sixth chapters, Crumb depicts a scene of people being thrown to the ground and tied up. We can also see other people being held with hands behind their back, as if they were being put in hand cuffs, as woman bent over with her hair being gripped by a man, a man on the ground with another man’s foot on his head. The way that R. Cumb depicted this scene influences how the rest of the text is read. If he depicted this scene differently, the view on God in the text could change dramatically. This can be broken up into the region around the section and the rest of the book.
                R. Crumb’s depiction of the scene at the beginning of the sixth chapter defines how people view God in this section of the text. The specific line associated with this brutal image is “And the Lord saw that the wickedness of the human creature was on great on the Earth, and that every scheme of his heart’s devising was only perpetually evil”. Cumb decided to depict this scene with people being shoved to the ground, bent over and gripped by their hair, having their head stepped on, and with their hands behind their back. Aside from depicting wickedness of human’s, we have no context for this specific image. The way that Crumb depicts this scene, makes the decision for God to wipe out all man on Earth. However, if Crumb depicted this scene differently, we may question God views on what is evil enough to destroy all the creatures that were created. If the picture was of human’s going out and hunting animals, which could easily be defended as for food, would God’s decision of wiping out majority of life on Earth have made as much sense. The depiction of this scene shapes our views on God the rest of the chapter and the next section on Noah’s Ark.
                The depiction of this scene also influences our views on God in other sections of the book. On the previous page, Crumb takes a literal view on the text when depicting a man kidnapping a woman to be his wife and most like rape. It is possible to argue that this moment is when God should have wiped all the creatures rather than a few frames later, when things appear to be worse. Neither image is depicted in a matter that shows mankind positive. The question then becomes which image is more evil. With the image of the kidnapping, it is obvious that the woman is being taken against her will or anyone’s in the background. With the image of the people being thrown to the ground, they could be being punished for their actions. The way that Crumb depicted these images allows for the reader to question why God thinks kidnapping is fine, but an image that could possibly be just punishment is evil. Another time in the book that we question God’s intent is after Cain kills his brother Abel. God’s punishment to Cain was that he was to become a wanderer. By itself this punishment seems somewhat fair, but God also makes it so that whoever kills Cain will suffer as well. Since so far, only Cain has killed somewhat, this seems like a fair punishment, but you could also argue that God should have wiped all creatures at the first signs of evil instead of letting it get out of hand. The same aspect could be given to the blatant disregard to authority in the when Eve at the fruit off of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The depiction that Crumb gives for the image in the sixth chapter gives the reader something to compare against other regions of the book, which sparks the question of why is one thing more evil than another, or why allow evil to reach a certain point.

                Crumbs depictions of any scene in the book allows for the reader to view the book differently. If he used different images, the reader’s views on God can change dramatically. If the image towards the beginning in the sixth chapter were depicted differently, we would be able to question God’s reasons for wiping all creatures on Earth. On the other hand, the way that Crumb depicts these images allows us to question what is more evil or why evil was allowed to reach a point of no return. Since this in an illustrated book of old religious texts, it is possible to view the scenes in multiple ways. Crumb’s depictions shapes the way we see the rest of the book.


  1. I like when you discuss how Crumb's depictions influence how we view and compare the relative evilness of different actions. However, you seem to be circling around the point that the way Crumb illustrated people's evil actions influences how readers view God. It would be beneficial for you to argue exactly what view of God readers come away with, rather than stating that they do. It would be interesting to explore how these depictions of evil cause viewers to judge God's actions. Further more, examining the image of God that Crumb, subconsciously or purposefully, wanted viewers to extract from the illustrations would make for an interesting essay. Lastly, although you state your point several times, I think it would be helpful if you had a clear thesis to guide people in reading.

  2. Kat covers most of the important ground here. This is repetitive, and although you have the start of an argument, you don't have the substance of one. Crumb's choices have meaning, yes, but what is the meaning? You get rapidly scattered as the essay progresses, raising questions which have perfectly reasonable answers without bothering to answer them - the identity of the "man" who does the kidnapping is one perfect example. You need to pay attention to the details and think about whether your questions have answers.

    So, on a basic level, how could this have been improved?

    What characterizes the evil that Crumb shows? It is organized, systemic, political violence. There are winners and losers. The winners are practically in ecstasy; the losers are being systematically humiliated. What does this mean? Does Crumb's notion of evil focus on warfare? On the state? Is this a fundamentally political argument about the nature of evil? That's only a suggestion for a starting point, but you need to start *somewhere*.