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J.B.: A Play in Verse Paperback – August 1, 1989
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The play centers on a dialogue between two characters, Zuss and Nickles, who play God and Satan respectively. Each makes important points about the root of suffering and God's role in Job's pain. Zuss argues, in more words or less, that Job has no right to question God. Nickles, instead, sympathizes with Job's pain believing that God has been unfair to mankind and especially to this man. Please grant that these are simplifications of their arguments, one can write novels on the meaning of this play.
Its not hard to imagine how the play ends, but like many things it's the journey not the destination that matter. The banter between the two, and satirical overtones of throwing the whole setting in a circus tent, take the reader beyond the norm. This is a story that requires the reader to engage, be prepared to think! You can not help but question your spirituality and faith during the play. For while few of us suffer as Job does, fewer still believe in God. Would you be able to still love God, if he took everything away from you?
I'll be straightforward and admit that my review is biased. MacLeish's J.B. has been (since reading it in my High School AP English Class) my favorite. I'm an avid reader, but there's something so subtly beautiful about MacLeish's language, something so deep in his words that have resounded in my heart, that I am compelled to re-read this play over and over again. MacLeish has a profound message to teach us "modern, disillusioned men" that one would have to have a heart of stone not to appreciate.
Perhaps today, when we are less satisfied with a "Dover Beach" sort of truth, we can read this play and see that MacLeish, who was, after all, a political man as well as poet, does not rest in individualism or selfism or even love. The dreadful agony is only worse.
This is a refreshing take on the story of Job, and in the play J.B. is not just one man, but all of humanity. Originally published in 1956, the world had already gone through two World Wars and if nothing else was going to shake humanity's faith in God and justice, these wars would. J.B.'s oldest son is killed coming home from the war, his next two children die in a car wreck, and his youngest daughter is found dead in the back of a lumber yard. Of course if you're familiar with the story of Job, things don't stop there. J.B. looses his livelihood, his savings, his house, his health, and his wife. With nothing left the Devil tempts him into committing suicide, the one thing he still has control over. But J.B. chooses instead to repent if God will only tell him why. While the story is one most people have heard before, MacLeish really does something unique with it. The idea of the whole thing being a play, with J.B. the only one who doesn't know, makes it even more heartbreaking as his life falls apart, and borrows from Shakespeare's "the whole world's a stage". It's easy to see how J.B. stands for more than just an individual and brings to light the suffering of more than just one person.
The play has won both a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony, so there's really no point in me reiterating that it's good. So, I'll just say it's a very quick read and if you haven't read it and want to add something a little more "classic" to your reading list, give this a try.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I first read this in 1959, and it's stayed with me since then. I often share it with friends and acquaintances who are going through difficult times. Read morePublished 4 months ago by DPW
Clean texts and format.
Page quality is good.
As for the story itself- I read this for a Humanity class a few years ago and decided to get a copy of my own. Read more
I read this 40 years ago and wanted to quote it in a talk I gave. The play and it's message still applies today.Published 11 months ago by douglas r. harding
beautifully done! I have loved every production I have seen of this piece. You can't go wrong with this play for High Schoolers!Published 14 months ago by Amanda Nail
As a relatively new fan of this poet/writer, i hope my review won't be premature here, but i felt to comment that i did like this post-modern re-telling of Job's story, although it... Read morePublished 15 months ago by Brandon Matuja
Read this book years ago. it is a great companion read to the book of Job.Published 16 months ago by Jeff A. Edwards
I thoroughly enjoyed this version of Job's turmoils. It was a bit different than most models I have reviewed before but MacLeish brings forth interesting twists and the views from... Read morePublished 16 months ago by Book Boy