The Novels (Masterplots II: World Fiction Series)
In his four Joseph novels, Thomas Mann explores the roots of Western civilization by elaborating on the stories of Abraham’s descendants, which are recorded in the last half of the book of Genesis. The first novel in the tetralogy, Joseph and His Brothers, explains how Joseph’s ancestors developed and bequeathed to him a profound desire to serve only the Highest, the One, the Living God. In obedience to his God, Abraham had nearly sacrificed his son Isaac before God told him to put a ram on the altar instead. When Isaac, old and almost blind, bestows the divine blessing, he is tricked into giving it to Jacob, his smooth son, rather than Esau, the hairy one, after their mother dresses her favorite in goatskins.
Jacob leaves home to herd sheep for Laban, with whose lovely daughter Rachel he soon falls deeply in love. For seven years he labors for the right to marry her. Then, on the wedding night, Laban pulls a trick by sending his older daughter Leah to Jacob’s bed instead. Before daylight reveals the substitution, they have consummated the nuptials nine times, conceiving a son, Reuben. Leah bears Jacob several more children before Jacob’s subsequent union with Rachel produces Joseph and later Benjamin, whose birth proves fatal to Rachel.
One of Jacob’s tales concerns his famous dream of a stairway to Heaven, where he wrestles from an angel a blessing that his numerous posterity will be called Israel after him. By two wives...
(The entire section is 1191 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of Joseph and His Brothers Summary. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!