Saturday, March 22, 2014

Lot's Wife

In class we talked about Morrisons biblical allusion to Lot's wife. She uses it to represent her characters' longing to remember the past. They know it isn't a good past and they try not to look back, but they can't help it. I looked on Wikipedia to read a few Jewish commentaries on why Lots wife looked back. (We mentioned all but one in class.) Here is what I found:

In Judaism, one common view of Lot's wife turning to salt was as punishment for disobeying the angels' warning. By looking back at the "evil cities" she betrayed her secret longing for that way of life. She was deemed unworthy to be saved and thus turned to a pillar of salt.[8]
Another accepted view in the Jewish exegesis of Genesis 19:26, is that when Lot's wife looked back, she turned to a pillar of salt upon the sight of God who was descending down to rain destruction upon Sodom and Gomorrah.[4]
A Jewish legend gives one reason for Lot's wife looking back, and that was to check if her daughters, who were married to men of Sodom, were coming or not. Instead, she saw God descending in order to rain fire and brimstone upon Sodom and Gomorrah. Thus, the sight of God turned her into a pillar of salt.[4]
Another Jewish legend says that because Lot's wife sinned with salt, she was punished with salt. On the night the two angels visited Lot, he requested of his wife to prepare a feast for them. Not having any salt, Lot's wife asked of her neighbors for salt which so happened to alert them of the presence of their guests, resulting in the mob action that endangered Lot's family.[4]


Ian Kuehne said...

I think the comparison between Paul D and Lot's wife is interesting. Lot's wife was tempted to look back for one of the reasons you listed--I think the first seems like the most inference to draw from the text--but had been instructed not to do so by God. Paul D, on the other hand, doesn't want to look back because he doesn't want to acknowledge Beloved's presence--he doesn't want to recognize that the past exists. He eventually does go to her as a sort of acceptance of the past, but he is punished by his feelings of guilt. It seems like almost a reversal of the story of Lot's wife: the reader knows that Lot's wife really shouldn't look back, but Paul D's acceptance of the past, while ambiguous, is ultimately portrayed much more positively.

Samantha Gillen said...

The past obviously plays a very important role in the novel. Beloved, in my opinion, represents the past that nobody in the black community of Cincinnati, or anywhere for that matter, wants to acknowledge. Beloved frees the African American community from their past, though, when she forces them to overcome it by acknowledging the events that occurred. Therefore, I agree with Ian in that I don't understand the comparison of Lot's wife to Paul D because his confrontation of the past puts him in a positive place where as Lot's wife turns into a pillar of salt for acknowledging the past. I still don't understand why she turned into a pillar of salt...