Tuesday, February 17, 2009

From Job to J.B.

I thought everyone had forgotten this play. I still remember it from high school; well, actually only these key lines:

I heard upon his dry dung-heap
That man cry out who cannot sleep:
"If God is God He is not good,
If God is good He is not God;
Take the even, take the odd,
I would not sleep here if I could
Except for the little green leaves in the wood
And the wind on the water."

— Nickles, in J.B.: A Play in Verse by Archibald MacLeish [The Pulitzer Prize play, 1959] (New York: Samuel French, Inc., 1958), p. 18.

But I'm not the only who remembers this play:

The Book of Job and J.B.: Faith vs. Reason by Gary Sloan (July 2003)

I think Sloan left out something important about the conclusion. J.B. rejects God, but he rejects "Satan" as well; more precisely, he rejects nihilism. In spite of suffering, J.B. learns to stand on his own two feet, to find dignity in his autonomy, not in God or circumstance.


Richard Singer said...

I am using this play to illustrate the concept of human who becomes an intrinsic origin. This is a major concept in a book I have been writing on conceptual philosophy. J.B. has previously grounded is basic value in the will of God. By the end of the paly He has rejected external groundings for his values. He still values, but the grounding has become intrinsic rather than extrinsic. J.B. can be taken as a paradigm case of this intrinsic origin concept.

Ralph Dumain said...

I agree that at the end J.B.'s values become intrinsic, not dependent on external, i.e. divine, authority. I don't know what 'intrinsic origin' or 'conceptual philosophy' means.