“But Lot's wife looked back behind him, and she became a pillar of salt” (New Geneva Study Bible, Gen. 19. 26). “Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary (the mother of James and Joseph), and Zebedee's wife, the mother of James and John” (Matt. 27:56). “Jacob went over to the well and rolled away the stone and watered his uncle's flock. Then Jacob kissed Rachel, and tears came to his eyes…But when Jacob woke up in the morning – it was Leah! ‘What sort of trick is this?’ Jacob raged at Laban. ‘I worked seven years for Rachel. What do you mean by this trickery?’” (Gen. 29). These are among the few verses dedicated to three women of the Bible. No commentary or insight into their inner persons is given. Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt, Mary was present at her son’s crucifixion, and Rachel’s older sister took her place in the marriage bed. Plain and simple, these are the cold, hard facts. In her poems “Lot’s Wife,” “Crucifixion,” and “Rachel,” Anna Akhmatova breathes life into these women by delving into their emotions and painting a picture of them in their surroundings.
The Biblical account of Rachel and Jacob’s relations gives only the details of their encounters and the fact that Jacob loved Rachel so much that he was willing to work for seven years in order to have her as his wife. When he is deceived and takes Leah instead, the Bible makes no mention of Rachel’s feelings, which were undoubtedly overpowering. The beautiful young daughter, Rachel, who is stabbed in the back by her sister and father, demands more detail; how deeply did this deception affect her? Through imagery, use of detail, and figurative language Akhmatova begins to op...
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...tegrating as her legs were stuck to the ground. The last stanza despairs that that no one mourned the death of this woman who dies for the love of her home and emphasizes that women like Lot’s wife should not be forgotten.
Masterfully, Anna Akhmatova takes three flat women from the pages of the Bible and paints their deepest emotions. These three women deserved to have their inner hearts revealed, and delicately, Akhmatova justifies them to her readers. In her readers’ minds, Mary, Lot’s wife, and Rachel are no longer objective women, but true-to-life women who suffer pressing trials.
Akhmatova, Anna. "Rachel". Trans. D. M. Thomas. Anna Akhmatova: Selected Poems. New York: Penguin, 1985.
New Geneva Study Bible. New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995.
Engl. 12. Sect. 37
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