Monday, October 13, 2014


Crumb’s Illustrations in The Book of Genesis mainly use literal interpretation to depict the text.  The pictures show situations exactly as they read, such as the earth being split apart.  This makes it seem as if Crumb interprets the book in small sections and not as a whole.  Most of the book reads this way, but there are glimpses where Crumb changes how the image relates to the text.
A section of the book where literal representation stands out is toward the end of chapter 19.  The story says that Lot, his wife, and his daughters flee the city.  Lot’s wife eventually looks back at the city and then she turns into a pillar of salt.  Crumb takes the literal interpretation and shows a pillar of salt shaped as the wife.  The outline of the pillar has deformed edges, but the overall object is similar to the wife.  The positioning of the pillar of salt is in the exact spot as the wife’s position in the previous picture.  The only difference is that the other travelers are not shown in the second image.  When viewing the two images together, it further shows that she literally turned into salt. 
Crumb could have interpreted this at a physical level to show that they were forced to leave the city and never to return.  The previous images showed the gruesome destruction and makes it seem like the city was wiped off the face of the earth.  The people had to also wipe it from their mind and never to stray down that path ever again.  Even looking or thinking of the sinful city results in punishment.  The quick transformation into salt is similar to a person looking at medusa and turning to stone.  Medusa has beauty and temptations similar to the city of Sodom.     
The way I read the text was different than depicted in the picture.  I think because the group is walking far away from the city, they will eventually be out of sight.  She looks back at the city, but is so far away that only her silhouette is visible.  A pillar of salt when viewed from far away has the shape of a mountain.  The text could be describing that her travels eventually blend her image into the shape of the mountain.  The use of salt in this section puts focus on her purity and loyalty of obeying God’s commands.  Further explanation of why she turned into salt is not shown in the text.
Chapter 3 has an example where Crumb puts personal opinion into how the story is told.  Crumb starts off by giving the serpent human qualities and shows it standing upright.  The body gestures in the first image mimic that of eve.  This gives a mirroring effect and could show the serpent is somehow linked to the humans.  The choice of using the serpent in the upright position puts more stress on God’s curse.  God says, “On your belly shall you crawl and dirt shall you eat all the days of your life!”  Crumb pairs this passage with a normal snake slithering on the ground.  Contrasting the portrayal of the serpent makes it seem like the curse had more of an impact. 
There is about two pages of images separating where the serpent first shows up and is eventually cursed.  This shows that events later in the story have influence on how the beginning is interpreted.  Without all images, the reader would view the serpent as a normal snake.  The curse would not have a large impact on how the serpent is regarded.  I always viewed the serpent as a normal snake that is hanging from the tree.  I am not sure if this is the same section, but I thought the serpent whispered in the ear of eve to influence her to eat the fruit.  The dialogue in this section is very humanly oriented and the use of deception does not come across.  I would have to reread The Book of Genesis to compare how they relate without the pictures.
Religious debates usually involve reading the bible as a literal depiction versus using the bible as a guide and applying it to personal life.  Crumb’s pictures take the side of the literal depiction, which further enhances bizarre situations.  Although the pictures seemed bizarre, some chapters were similar to how I viewed the story and helped clear up meanings.

1 comment:

  1. “ This makes it seem as if Crumb interprets the book in small sections and not as a whole. “ -- it’s a good idea, but the devil is in the details. What are your examples, and what is the impact of his emphasis on the parts rather than the whole?

    For what it’s worth (maybe not much) I’ve never encountered a non-literal interpretation of the pillar of salt. People might argue about what it *means*, but the even itself is pretty straightforward in the text. I don’t understand your interpretation. It might be right or wrong - I just don’t understand it. The medusa thing is good, if disconnected, but I don’t understand this: “A pillar of salt when viewed from far away has the shape of a mountain. The text could be describing that her travels eventually blend her image into the shape of the mountain. “ -- the problem here is that she is gone from the story - so are you saying that she falls behind, and then looks like a pillar from a distance? I don’t quite follow that.

    I follow what you’re saying with the snake, but I don’t see an argument. Crumb dramatizes the snake’s anthropomorphic form to emphasize the curse, or perhaps *because* the wording of the curse makes it make sense. But what do you do with that? From my point of view, this is simply a case of Crumb reading the text *correctly* rather than traditionally. You might have a different take - the