Is the plot in the play J. B., by Archibald MacLeish, climactic or episodic?

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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The plot in J. B. is not episodic. It is climactic. An episodic plot structure is one that consists of a series of loosely related stories. These may have one structural element in common that loosely relates them one to the other. It may be a structural element of a common place, theme, or character. Other than the one structural commonality, there is no other connection between one episode and the next in an episodic structure.

A climactic plot structure, on the other hand, is a structure in which all scenes or chapters are causally or otherwise directly related to each other. The connectedness may appear through flashbacks or flash-forwards, through external framing narrative, through linear or non-linear chronology or through direct cause-and-effect relationship.

Since J. B. has a Prologue and a play-within-a-play structure, it has an external frame for the internal play narrative. The frame has a cause-and-effect chronological progression while the inner play has its own cause-and-effect chronological progression. It is the external frame structure combined with the internal play-within-a-play structure that produce a sensation of episodes. Yet the cause-and-effect chronological nature of the entirety makes it clear that J. B. is climactic, with rising action preceding the climax and falling action following the climax.

Nickles:
But this is God in Job you're playing:
God the Maker: God Himself!
Remember what he says?--the hawk
Flies by His wisdom! and the goats--
Remember the goats? He challenges Job with them: (Prologue)

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