Literary Conventions in the Book of Esther -- By: Forrest S. Weiland

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 159:636 (Oct 2002)
Article: Literary Conventions in the Book of Esther
Author: Forrest S. Weiland

Literary Conventions
in the Book of Esther*

Forrest S. Weiland

* This is the third of four articles in the series “Literary Art in the Book of Esther.”

Forrest S. Weiland is a Greater Europe Mission missionary and an adjunct faculty member, Christian Heritage College, El Cajon, California.

The first article of this series investigated the literary genre of the Book of Esther.1 The genre design suggests that the narrator did not write a fictional story with merely a moral message, but rather a historical narrative of events in the life of the postexilic Jewish community. Yet at the same time he encased his account in a highly dramatic literary form. In essence the narrator creatively wove together history and drama. The second article analyzed the plot structure of Esther with its setting, major conflict and resolutions.2 Those literary elements provided the framework on which the author built his message. This third article considers selected literary conventions as additional narrative features that contribute to the message of the book.

Selected Literary Conventions And Techniques In Esther

Textual design refers to the author’s choice of genre and his employment of literary conventions as the medium through which he communicates his message. Alter refers to the genre medium as the “grid of conventions,” which he defines as “an elaborate set of tacit agreements between artist and audience about the ordering of the art work.”3 In the broadest sense the author of the Book of Esther transported his message within the framework of a

historical narrative. As noted in the first article in this series, the narrative contains both heroic and comic traits. In addition the narrator’s use of irony and satire helped infuse his story with its dramatic impulse. On a yet smaller scale he utilized literary conventions to emphasize aspects of his message and to lend artistic beauty to his work.

Narrative Point Of View

The designation “Point of view” is used rather broadly by literary critics to refer to “the position or perspective from which a story is told.”4 Greidanus alludes to its importance in determining the author’s message when he states that, “the theme of the text ought to be formulated from the author’s viewpoint.”5 Biblical writers expressed point...

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