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Esther 5-10

09.15.2010

It’s far from an exact parallel, but I see many similarities between my reaction to Esther and my reaction to Jane Austen’s Emma.  In both cases, the heroine gives off a first impression of being conceited, unserious, and self-centered.  But in both stories, trials and opportunities serve both to mature the women and display their pre-existing strengths of character.

In Esther’s case, she accepts her responsibility as indicated by Mordecai and risks her life to argue for her people.  In so doing, she also reclaims her Jewish identity and cashes in on the king’s affection for her in order to extract protection for her people.  These actions represent changes in her behavior from immature to selfless. 

The manner in which she does this, demonstrates her sense of tact.  While possibly misapplied in the earlier half of the book, it’s her very pliancy and submissiveness that put her in position to do the most good.  Compare to Vashti, who, while justifiably offended, handled her situation in an ultimately counterproductive way (assuming, of course, that her aim was to remain queen, which it needn’t necessarily have been).  Esther redirects her skills from serving herself towards serving others. 

I think that by displaying this growth and complexity, the story is told in such a way as to allow the reader to identify with Esther as a believable person.  It’s for this reason, I would guess, that she remains particularly popular with women to this day (as demonstrated by my wife who reacted to yesterday’s portrayal of Esther in a negative light by becoming indignant and offended).

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