The Book of Job

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Is the Book of Job a tragedy? Discuss.

Quick answer:

The Book of Job can be considered a tragedy as it contains Aristotle's key components: harmartia, anagnorisis, and peripeteia. Job's harmartia is his tendency to complain and question God. His anagnorisis occurs when he recognizes God's supreme power. Job's peripeteia is his dramatic reversal of fortune, losing everything and then having his fortune restored by God after learning humility and trust.

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The biblical Book of Job contains many elements of tragedy, including variations of Aristotle's three key components, harmartia, anagnorisis, and peripeteia. Let's look at this in more detail.

Certainly Job is reduced to nothing in the first part of the book. He has not sinned against God but rather is being tested by God. His children die. He loses all his wealth. He is covered with sores all over his body. Yet Job remains faithful to God, but he is not perfect. In fact, if he has a harmartia, a tragic flaw, it is probably complaining. We cannot completely blame him, of course, but he does do a good job of whining, and he questions God as if they were equals. God questions him back, and Job learns his place, recovers his humility, and grows in trust.

As for anagnorisis, this is a moment of recognition in which the protagonist makes a discovery, usually about himself. Job realizes that God is God, and he is not. He puts his hand over his mouth in a gesture of humility and learns, if not the full meaning of his suffering, then at least that there is a meaning and that God is in control of it.

Finally, we have peripeteia, which is a reversal of fortune. Job certainly experiences this. He is the wealthiest, most respected man in his area at the beginning of the book, but then he loses everything. Of course, at the end of the book, Job's fortune is restored by God because, overall, he passed the test and has learned some important lessons.

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