Wife Determining the Meaning(s) of Good Poem

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Determining the Meaning(s) of Good: The Human and the Divine in Kristine Batey's "Lot's Wife"

The Bible is, in addition to and in large part because of its role as a religious text for the so-called "Western" religions, one of the foundational works of Western literature, serving as a source of inspiration, symbolism, and allegory in direct and indirect ways for writers of every era following its adoption by Rome. Philosophers, politicians, poets, novelists, and writers and thinkers of all stripes have found the stories, characters, and apparent conclusions of the Bible to be a source of undying inspection, examination, and ultimately of cultural reference, enabling deeper and more direct insights to be achieved and presented to the reader through the common knowledge of the Biblical text. The stories of Adam and Eve, of Noah's Ark, and of Moses' life in Egypt are all fairly well-known to people of many different religions and of no religion whatsoever -- they have become a part of the cultural mythology, removed at least in part from their religious implications.

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This fact has allowed for the Bible and its individual characters and stories to become far more than a mere reference point or source of common understanding and inspiration. Many authors and poets have directly re-imagined stories and characters appearing in the Bible from a more modern perspective, illuminating portions of the stories that were perhaps invisible until this perspective was brought to bear on them. The increasing secularism of the modern world has even allowed for the direct questioning of the Bible's versions of events, casting the very idea of what is "right" or "good" into doubt.

Poem on Wife Determining the Meaning(s) of Good: The Assignment

Kristine Batey's poem "Lot's Wife" does exactly this, in taking the position and attitude of the unnamed spouse of Abraham's nephew into consideration during the destruction by God of her hometown, Sodom. Because Abraham and his nephew failed to find even ten righteous people in the city, God condemns Sodom and its neighbor Gomorrah (as well as several other neighboring cities) to utter destruction, including death for all of their inhabitants. As the righteous Lot and his family leave just before the destruction, they are warned not to look back. Lot's wife is unable to resist this lingering sorrow and regret, and upon turning from a hillside to glimpse her home once more she is instantly turned into a pillar of salt, frozen in her moment of disobedience through human impulse. The Bible story seems to focus more on the disobedience, whereas Batey focuses on the impulse.

In shifting her focus in this manner, Batey is challenging the righteousness of God's punishment of Lot's wife; she was acting out of simple human emotion, and not out of any selfish desire, and thus it seems unfair of God to bring this punishment upon her. It is doubtless a moment of human weakness, as nothing was served by her looking back and indeed she ad been directly told not to do so, but it seems a minor and understandable failing. The bulk of the poem is concerned with Lot's wife's remembrances of the good her neighbors had done for her, and the seeming senselessness of the destruction to her home city. Like her, the people of Sodom and Gomorrah were merely following their impulses, living in the way that seemed best to them -- and for God, this was punishable by death.

Being "good," for God, meant obedience above all else. Every individual is expected to live a righteous life, and the terms of that righteousness are set by God's commandments, regardless of how these interact with the impulses, desires, and concerns that are a part of human nature (which ostensibly came from God, as well). Batey references the difference in religion between Lot's family and their neighbors as an insignificant reason for such punishment; God would disagree. In addition, it is part of God's expectation that each human individual love and respect each other, and this certainly does not occur when the crowd demands Lot's guests -- actually angels -- come out for a ritualistic rape of the outsiders. It is custom for the town, but a major source of God's wrath.

It is also a part of God's commandments that one is to respect… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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