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The Delicate Hero

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Julia L.
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documents in English
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case study
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3 pages
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  1. Introduction
  2. About Judith
  3. Before transformation
  4. Holofernes and Satan
  5. Conclusion

Judith takes the head of her enemy and delivers a speech to galvanize an army that saves her city from the invading Assyrians. She demonstrates apparent heroism through these accomplishments. However, the text in Sid Bradley's translation of ?Judith? reveals that she does not achieve these feats on her own. God supernaturally intervenes ? imbuing her with His power, giving her the necessary courage to slay Holofernes, transforming her into the hero.

The diction used to describe her actions infers that the heroism Judith portrays is indeed the result of the power of God coursing through her. And when juxtaposing this angelic Judith against the satanic Holofernes, the many elements of extreme contrasts and imagery infer that Holofernes not only embodies all the evil satanic vices, but likely operates under the agency of Satan as well. If Holofernes truly is the incarnate of Satan, then we can reason that God has a desire to exterminate him and all the more reason to team up with Judith. Foreshadowing, as a literary mechanism, parallels this blueprint of God's for killing Holofernes and purging the world of evil, and Judith is merely acting as God's instrument of judgment in this case. Her transformation throughout the story is, therefore, not merely a triumph of her own strength or will, but also a process of God's will and infusion of courage into her. From the canonical perspective, this story illustrates that God alone provides true strength.

However, the secular audience will see a less literal meaning. The tale of Judith reminds the audience that greatness is often borne from the least likely places, that people are capable of more than what they deem possible, and that one can be victorious despite seemingly impossible challenges. This discourse endeavors to analyze these interpretations through a textual scrutiny of Bradley's translation of ?Judith? (143-147).

[...] She breaks all stereotypes of heroism. She faces overwhelming odds, and yet, effectively mobilizes an army. God does not just magically dismiss evil and distress. He advocates a sense of personal responsibility in man's life. Similarly, the secular interpretation may imply that one simply cannot expect spontaneity in personal transformation, that one must create the possibility with an inner resolve and will, then find the drive and take action, especially in the face of despair or tribulation. In addition to motivation, one must also have faith, like Judith does when she visits the Assyrian camp with a heart full of fear and a mind void of strategy. [...]


[...] She becomes a permanently changed person. Before this transformation, the poet refers to Judith only as a wise beauty. During the transformation, the joins her and once inspire[s] her with courage? to decapitate Holofernes, a process during which the author refers to her only by the pronouns and lower capitalized words, and and the generic names, ?ringletted and ?handmaid of the Lord? (Bradley 145). The selection of pronouns and lower cased pseudonyms suggests the removal of Judith's personal identity as the Lord strips her of her old self and divinely inhabits her in His power. [...]


[...] The poet calls Holofernes a defined archaically as devil? a strong allegation of his allegiance with Satan. When Judith kills Holofernes, his spirit immediately ?depart[s] elsewhere beneath the deep ground and was there prostrated and chained in torment ever after, coiled about by snakes, trussed up in tortures and cruelly prisoned in hellfire? (Bradley 145). This punishment is similar to the devil's punishment found in Revelation: ?Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. [...]

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