Thursday, November 11, 2010

Oh Brother!

Robert Coover's "The Brother" is a poignantly harsh reimagination of the Biblical Noah's Ark story as seen through the eyes of Noah's brother. When read through the lens of the tale in Genesis, the unorthodox point of view, harsh tone, and shrewd poetic devices of Coover's piece conjure an entirely more humanized rendition of the situation.
The point of view in this story is atypical. Coover chose to write in first person, but the narrator is a bit unreliable. The speaker rants about his brother's strange actions and attitude and tells of his begrudging efforts to help Noah, and all the ways it affects his own prosperity and happiness. Such a temperamental account is most likely a bit off the mark in its judgements.
The tone of "The Brother" is markedly different from that of the original story. In the Bible's account, the tone is serious and instructive, and Noah is portrayed as the ever-obedient, reverent servant of Almighty God. The narrator in Coover's work commences with a snide, mocking voice, then, after realizing that perhaps Noah did have it right and facing drowning destruction, he slips into a tone of harsh desperation and distress, and even hopelessness.
Poetic devices in the story help humanize the historically unrelatable scene. The format of this work is that of a stream of consciousness-no capitalization, paragraphing, or punctuation. The author's diction is carefully constructed and filled with slang, contemporary language, including expletives, that enhance the idea that this event happened to a real family. The details straight from the Biblical text tie the retelling into the traditional tale and provide a sense of legitimacy.
"The Brother" sheds a new light on an old story.

No comments: