The Book Of Judith- A Literary Review Literature Review Example
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The Book of Judith conveys a heroic tale about a beautiful and courageous Jewish widow who saves the day for the Israelites during the ambitious campaign of King Nabuchodonosor in expanding his empire.
Judith is described as not only exceedingly beautiful and rich, but effectively strategic. Her cleverness coupled with an effortless charm and prowess for flattery enabled Judith to devise a tactic that would ensure the victory of her people over the Assyrians. The character demonstrates a number of paradoxes which makes Judith all the more enigmatic and engaging.
Holofernes is depicted as the villain of the story, the reliable right hand of King Nabuchodonosor executing his slash and burn way of conquering other nations. He is also the archetypal representation of worldly corruption and hedonism. Holofernes also stands for the many vices which the Church abhors. Such wickedness includes Arrogance, Cruelty, Self-indulgence, and Lust.
King Nabuchodonosor, King of the Assyrians, represents the greed for power of the typical Tyrannical leader . His and thirst for revenge among those who do not recognize and bow to his authority is a familiar pattern of infamous sovereigns throughout history.
Anchior, the Ammonite who warns the king of the supremacy of the Israelites’ God is almost depicted as a messenger- a chronicler of the wondrous deeds of God to his chosen people, which in turn fanned the fiery stance of the Israelites against King Nabuchodonosor.
Ozias, the governor of Bethulia where Judith resides, in his resignation has agreed to give up the City after 5 days. His flight reaction stands in complete contrast to Judith’s more resilient retort shown who later concocted a plan to defeat the Assyrians.
The military system that makes for a powerful country is definitely emphasized in the story. The first section of the book discloses large amounts of gold and silver spent towards the king’s army. This has been an important feature of significant political systems throughout history. Currently, powerful countries spend billions of dollars on military operations and nuclear warheads which only supports the political implications of the book millennia after it was written.
The wide demarcation and contrast between Religious devotion and Atheism is another relevant point. The Israelites demonstrated faith in God though perseverance in fasting and continuous prayers which in turn gave them the courage to resist the tyranny of the King. On the other hand, the single-pointedness of Nabuchodonosor’s nonbelief of God outside of himself enables the King to conquer lands and create a large empire. They are two sides of the same coin- the same passionate dedication going into two opposite directions.
The concept of Allegiance as opposed to Autonomy is also emphasized. This is a larger illustration of the in-group, out-group concept that is very much a dynamic of all forms of society regardless of size. In the story, allegiance to the king represents a nation’s safety from his wrath. Resistance to Nabuchodonosor’s authority and rejection of his claim to be the people’s one and only God would mean suffering and death through his slash and burn policy. The in-group out-group model also plays a major role in Religious dogma- those inside a particular church will be the only ones to be saved, the ones outside will not be spared from the wraths of hell. The book has a particularly religious inclination, and is especially contrived to stimulate both the readers’ patriotism and piousness.
The significance of a Champion only fortifies the “Saviour mentality” of most cultures if not all. Judith fulfills this role in the story as Jesus Christ, Joan of Arc, Mahatma Gandhi and many notable leaders have fulfilled theirs at various points in history.
Conflict develops after Holofernes’ strategy works.
When Holofernes and the rest of his officers, surrounded the spring and all cisterns of water for twenty day cutting off Bethulia’s water supply, all the families gathered themselves to Ozias which led to his decision to surrender to the Assyrians. Majority of the Jews were terrified and ready to submit to the enemy but Judith voice out her fervent opposition to Ozias’ decision which fired up a brilliant tactic to defeat the Assyrians. This is a great example of the “Fight or Flight” theory in which Man is confronted with only two options when confronted with a threat to his survival.
The genius of Judith’s character
The brilliance in the revelation of Judith as the story’s heroine lies on the many paradoxes she represent making her the most exciting of characters. The fact that her name appeared only on the second half of the book only re-affirms her character as the “Dark Horse” in the story.
Gentle beauty vs. Extreme bravery. At first, she was described as the loveliest woman in the land- someone who is exceedingly beautiful, a widow with great riches, and many servants. Her reputation is that of a God-fearing person. Neither was there anyone that can speak badly of her, only validating her character as a gentle soul. This gradually changes as she had the bravery to approach enemy territories, and more astoundingly to the most-feared General of the Assyrians, Holofernes. The tension of the story peaks at that critical moment where she mustered a lot of courage to finally behead the drunk general amidst the whole Assyrian army and walking out of the enemy gates without being found out.
Virtue vs. Cunning. Another paradox lies with her being depicted as a woman of God, but as the story reveals itself, Judith calculatedly used the advantage of her feminine charms to lure not only General Holofernes but the rest of the Army chiefs. She flattered the General and showcased her female charisma managing to let his guard down before her fatal attack.
In Christian culture, Judith represents an embodiment the Church because of the many virtues she personifies. She portrays Humility, Fairness, Resilience, and Chastity – the very opposite of the villainous Holofernes. The character’s female gender crafted Judith as a natural illustration of the biblical paradox, Strength in weakness- the underdog who turns out to be the Victor in the end. This is comparable to another Biblical favorite, David, who defeats the much-feared Goliath – both feats saved the Chosen People from a militarily greater opponent.
A most elaborate and vivid narration of Judith’s preparation for “battle” also provides an interesting facet to the character. The part where she washed her body, and anointed herself with the best ointment, and plaited the hair of her head, clothed herself with the garments of her gladness, and put sandals on her feet, and took her bracelets, and lilies, and earlets, and rings, and adorned herself with all her ornaments while constantly praying to God is an endearing section of the the narrative. It is a mixture of feminine confidence and vulnerability which every female can relate to.
The book comprises various historical anachronisms, with its vague reference of historical figures and events that are never confirmed nor dated to actual historic accounts. Hence, the book of Judith is accepted by both bible scholars and historians as a historical novel. Implications and speculations to certain Political leaders because of similarities in character or resemblance in political significance even made the book of Judith more mysterious and intriguing. One can say that the book serves as a noteworthy analogue for the contemporary spy novel.
The vivid storytelling of the book’s author also captivates the imagination with detailed description of characters and events in the story. With a graphic narrative, the texts come alive in the readers’ minds. The major passages are painted very forcefully, and a striking image is easily drafted in just a few words. An example is the description of the vast Assyrian army, with the chariots, and horsemen, and archers, who covered the face of the earth, like locusts taking possession of the cities. The paragraph effectively magnifies the superiority of the Assyrian military as opposed to the confused and fearful Israelite defence force.
The gradual increase of dramatic tension throughout the story also contributes to the book’s literary appeal. The solid demonstration of the conflict between Israelites and Assyrian armies, the strong build-up of the main characters, the political and spiritual significance of the story, all weighed in for the making of a palpable climax from the decapitation of General Holofernes to the exit of Judith and her handmaid through the Assyrian’s gates.
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