J.B. and Job
There are many similarities but also many differences between the story of Job in The Bible and Archibald MacLeish’s J.B. These similarities and differences falls along the categories of style, story line, and characterization.
First, the style of both pieces of literature. J.B. is a play by Archibald MacLeish whereas the story of Job is a drama. In both of these pieces a prologue is present. However, the prologue differs greatly. In Job, the prologue merely states a vague background of the life of Job and his family. On the other hand, the prologue of J.B. gives detailed descriptions of J.B. and each and every one of his family members. In both cases, an antagonist is present. The antagonist is not necessarily evil or bad, but simply just one who disagrees.
Second, the story line. Although Archibald MacLeish wrote the play based on the story of Job in The Bible, there are many differences in the story line. In The Bible, Job’s misfortune was spawned by Satan trying to show God that Job was not as holy as God had thought. God gave Satan the power to destroy everything Job had, including his health. Job’s children all died together when the roof of the house collapsed on them while they were all dining at the house of the oldest brother. His wife died also, and all of his possessions was taken from him. Furthermore, he contracted painful sores all over his body. As for J.B., his children died separately, one after the other. The oldest had died in the army. Two were involved in a car accident. One daughter was killed by an explosion that also took out J.B.’s millions. And the youngest was raped. However, J.B.’s wife, Sarah, was not killed, but instead she left him. In The Bible, Job is confronted by his three friends. His friends encourages him to turn against God and to curse him, but he refused to do so. On the other hand, J.B. was confronted with four friends, the first three encouraging him to turn against God but the fourth telling him to pray to God and to praise Him.
In the end, God gives back Job his original wife Sarah and his ten kids. He is rid of the painful sores and his possessions were doubled. On the other hand, J.B.’s wife came back and they produce new children; he also received his wealth back. The biggest difference between the two story lines is that in J.B. the presence of God is not really emphasized.
Third, the characterization. J.B. was based on a 20th century New England millionaire, while Job was a wealthy man who lived in the land of Uz in 1000 B.C. J.B. had a wife named Sarah, two sons, three daughters, and was wealthy financially. Job also had a wife names Sarah, but he had seven sons, three daughters, and was wealthy in land and cattle. Job’s children were vaguely described, for they only existed for a short part of the story. On the other hand, J.B.’s children were individually introduced, and participated in a scene together with J.B. and his wife. Also, another characterization difference that was mentioned earlier was that Job only had three friends who come to speak to him, meanwhile, J.B. had four.
It’s amazing to see how an author can make a 3000-year-old drama come to life with only a few changes. Archibald MacLeish has created a wonderful play and it will continue to remind its readers the insignificance of materialistic things.