Analysis Of Pamela Requited

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Contemporary Jewish feminist writers often overlook the story of Hagar in Genesis. The two short chapters (16 and 21) are typically analyzed with respect to the matriarch Sarah or the first son of Abraham, Ishmael, but rarely focus on the figure that connects the two. Both scholars Judith Plaskow and Leila Leah Bronner only mention Hagar’s name once or twice in their books on Jewish feminism. Hagar’s apparent irrelevance to the feminist narrative is surprising considering her unique experiences. In works where she is mentioned in greater depth, she is portrayed as deserving of her misfortune. In Hagar Requited, Pamela Reis interprets Hagar’s story as a tale of crime and punishment. However, in this essay I will discuss name usage, divine…show more content…
In Hagar’s case, her timeline of titles mimic her status/development as a character. She is first introduced in Genesis 16.1 as “an Egyptian slave-girl whose name was Hagar.” All of her labels are identified; nationality, occupational position, and name. In many ways all three of these identities are interconnected. Reis identifies that “in Hebrew, the expression 'the stranger' (הָגָר), and the name 'Hagar' (הָגָר), are the same word.” Her otherness is heavily enforced no matter which term is used, however specific implications are made in referencing to certain aspects of her identity. Initially, Hagar’s status as a handmaid is prioritized (Genesis 16.2). This gives Sarai full control as her mistress and enables her pursuit of surrogacy. As a result, Hagar obtains another title: wife. Stated in the scripture, Sarai “took Hagar the Egyptian, her slave-girl, and gave her to her husband Abram as a wife” (16.3). This title of “wife” is defined differently than Sarai’s seemingly identical title of wife. Reis understands that Hagar “is to be a wife in name only. Her duty is to have a child, not to enjoy the permanent prerogatives of the marital bed.” However, this alternate definition is not explicit in the biblical text itself. From this point on, Sarai and Abram refer to Hagar as “slave-girl” in…show more content…
Their aversion towards involving Hagar in their relationship by waiting ten years (Gen 16.3), their mistreatment and harshness towards her during and after her pregnancy (16.6, 21.10), and their act of casting her away into the desert (21.14) all demonstrate their position as higher status oppressors and Hagar’s lowly “otherness”. Unfortunately, part of what makes Hagar’s story particularly miserable is the addition of God’s hostility. In many biblical stories God works as an all-seeing being who punishes those who disobey the commandments and reward those who follow faithfully. God would be expected to act as a savior for a victimized and cast out slave but instead punishes her further. God’s cruelty is first witnesses when Hagar runs away into the wilderness away from Sarai. The angel of the Lord finds her and commands her to turn around; “’Return to your mistress, and submit to her’” (16.9). Despite the hatred and misery Hagar experiences that prompts her to flee, the angel forces her to return to that setting. Reis excuses this order from the Lord as an order for the protection of the conceived child, since Hagar does not have a clear destination in mind. Reis assumes that “with no survival strategy, Hagar will die in the desert. To stay alive, it is better for her to return to Sarai’s malevolence---painful though the prospect may be.” She acknowledges that Hagar does not wish to

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