The Sorrows of Young Werewolf (eyeteeth) wrote,
The Sorrows of Young Werewolf

Jonah Minus Jonah

I tried drawing Jonah in the belly of the whale in the first panel, but it didn't seem to work. I might revisit that idea. (The orca stomach, happily for me, is right below the dorsal fin, which should look nice.) But don't worry, he'll be back after these four verses, because after this is when he spins off into metaphor. The things he talks about in these three panels are things that more or less have really happened to him, except for how he says he's in sheol when really where he is is the belly of a fish. Maybe one of you can tell me if narrating ongoing events as if they were in the past is a common rhetorical device for Hebrew storytellers, because otherwise I have lots of guesses. Is Jonah's monologue in the past tense because he wants to suggest to God that his salvation is inevitable, like the end of The Mikado? Is he in so much pain that he can talk about it only by pretending it's already over? Or is it just that being thankful suggests the past tense, and Jonah wants to express thanks as powerfully as he can?

I like the way God turns Jonah's escape attempt upside down here. Jonah fled by ship in the hope of getting out of God's service area, basically; the storm already showed him how mistaken that idea was, but God, instead of stopping there, actually shoves Jonah farther away -- not to get rid of him, but just the opposite, to show him that there's nowhere God can't find him. There is no such thing as being far away from God. Jonah has clearly learned that lesson, because he's praying now, knowing (or at least fervently hoping) that God hears him in there.

Or, if Jonah is talking about things that really happened in the past, not about what he's currently going through, this is a neat piece of revisionist history: "Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple." Is that right? Because I don't remember it that way, Jonah. The holy temple's back that way, in the opposite direction from Tarshish.

Whichever way he means it, it's soon going to become clear that Jonah is suffering, or has suffered, in ways that can't be explained by what he's literally endured so far. As in the Book of Job, another of my favorites, here the immediate suffering is an excuse to make our antihero a conduit for a universal howl of pain. Job after all has endured a lot, but you'll notice that when he's complaining he doesn't mention any of the specifics, the camels that got hit by lightning or the children crushed by a wall. He speaks of a pain even bigger than that, the suffering of the whole world, spoken of in universal terms. You might expect altruism on such a scale from a guy like Job, who is the most upright man of his time, a father who loves his children and treats everyone with kindness, but we're about to get a bit of something similar from our misanthropic protagonist Jonah. Being in a fish is bad but there's more to it than that, isn't there, Jonah? That's not what's really bothering you. Let's open that up, as my therapist says.
Tags: animals, job, stix, the bible, the book of jonah
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