Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Story Write-Up: For This Child I Prayed, by William Gage

William Gage.  “For This Child I Prayed.”  2015.  See here to buy the story.

“For This Child I Prayed” is a short story about the biblical story of Hannah in the Bible.  Hannah is barren and prays to God for a child, and God blesses her with Samuel.

There were parts of Gage’s retelling that I particularly liked: Hannah thinking about how her life was not exactly how she envisioned it when she first married Elkanah and was looking forward to children; the children begging to hear Bible stories; and Eli no longer officially serving as priest yet giving the sanctuary a certain dignity with his presence.  The story also effectively portrayed Hannah’s loneliness during the festivals because she did not have a child.

I was a bit dissatisfied with the story’s portrayal of the relationship between Hannah and her husband Elkanah.  In the Bible, in I Samuel 1:5, we read that Elkanah gave Hannah a double portion and loved her, even though God closed her womb.  A few verses later, Elkanah is upset because Hannah is not eating, and he asks Hannah if he is not worth more than seven sons.  Elkanah’s favoritism towards Hannah may have been one reason that his other wife, Peninnah, taunted Hannah for being barren.  In Gage’s short story, however, Elkanah does not appear to me to be as sensitive, supportive, or loving towards Hannah as he is in the Bible.  They do have a romance that goes back a long time in Gage’s story, and that was sweet, plus Elkanah gets Hannah a dog so that she would be less lonely.  But, overall, Elkanah does not shine in Gage’s story.  Elkanah strikes me as rather cold and insensitive towards Hannah.

Something else that dissatisfied me about Gage’s short story was that it did not really go into the political situation in the time of Hannah.  The priesthood was corrupt, and the Philistines were a threat to Israel.  These things are arguably relevant to the birth of Samuel, for Hannah’s joyful prayer in I Samuel 2 says that Samuel’s birth relates to the dethroning of princes and the lifting up of the needy.  Gage did present Hannah as sacrificing her son when she fulfilled her vow of giving him to the Tabernacle, but I wish that he had explained more what the sacrifice was for: so that Samuel would become a leader of Israel, one who would deliver Israel from afflictions.

I give this story 3.5 stars.  3 is too low because it did have excellent scenes, but 4 is too high because I was hoping for more depth.

The author asked me to write a review of his short story, and I thank him for doing so.

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