The Prodigal Son: A Comparison Essay, Research Paper
From the Gospel of Luke and by Garrison Keillor, a comparison.
Many parables originated from Christianity. One of the most well-known ones is the Prodigal Son. In fact, due to its popularity, it is often quoted from, and different adaptations of it have been written and even acted out. The original version of the Prodigal Son is from the Gospel of Luke 15:11-32. Garrison Keillor, a celebrated fiction writer, and host of a weekly live radio show, attempted and succeeded at such an adaptation of this parable and came up with a humorous version of his own in which he retold the story through a radio drama.
A parable is a short, simple story, which conveys a moral or a lesson. These lessons are taught by use of comparisons. During early Christianity, Jesus used parables to communicate the hidden truths of God’s kingdom. Through these short stories, the people were able to understand the lessons better, because they were able to relate to them from Jesus’ use of illustrations and examples taken from their daily life. These parables helped the people apply these life lessons in their goals to be Christians and because of this importance the parables were always of a serious mood or tone. For this reason, Keillor’s version of the Prodigal Son seems unnatural because of the way he portrayed it, yet its lesson still comes across.
In the Gospel of Luke the Prodigal Son accounts the story of a father and his two sons. From this story the father-son relationship that God has with humanity is portrayed. The sin of human nature through the younger son’s selfishness and squandering, and through the older son’s incapability of forgiveness is also shown. God’s unconditional and merciful love is also represented as the father received his younger son with open arms despite of what he had suffered. In short the parable reveals that we humans have a free will and if we choose to love in God’s Grace, regardless of our past sins, God will welcome any of us with open arms into His kingdom.
In comparison, Keillor’s humorous version carries the same lesson but in an entirely different mood and style. Instead, he uses comedy to dramatize the same themes as in the original parable by his use of sarcasm and exaggeration. As Luke’s version is of a conservative nature, Keillor’s is of a perverse one. In contrast, Luke’s version only has three characters, while Keillor’s uses ten. This addition of characters is an example of the exaggeration that Keillor plants in his recreation. Keillor also incorporates two other parables: The Lost Sheep and The Good Samaritan. This adds to the humor as well. In his extravagant use of humor, however, it sometimes feels that it somehow departs from the moral spirit of the original parable. This is apparent in the scenes that take place between the bimbo, the way he pokes fun at the Samaritan, and even the way he portrays the father to be somewhat ignorant. These scenes were so ridiculous that although they were very funny, it seemed a bit disrespectful that it strayed away from the moral feeling of a parable.
In addition, Keillor satirizes certain human follies in his version. Such characteristics are ignorance, envy, jealousy, bitterness, and selfishness. The father seemed almost unaware that he was being taken advantage of, the older brother was immensely envious and jealous, and extremely bitter, and the younger brother was especially selfish and foolish. He even satirizes the Samaritan’s unusual kindness.
In Luke’s version of the Prodigal Son, each of the three characters was represented conservatively opposed to the way Keillor depicted his three main characters. The only character in the biblical version that I noted had a shortcoming is the older brother. He was unforgiving and quite jealous of the love that his father had for his younger brother. It makes sense that he is the only character that would have a flaw because he symbolizes hypocrisy in the biblical version of the parable. In Keillor’s version, all three characters had shortcomings. The father seemed not to know how to show his love for his older son that it seemed like he just ignored him. He also seemed to favor his younger son more. The older brother was very bitter because of this and was very jealous of his younger brother. The younger brother on the other hand took advantage of his father and was very irresponsible and immature, maybe because he knew that his father would take him back. This can be seen in the scene in which he rehearses what he would say to his father when he returned home; it seemed insincere.
In conclusion, the parable of the Prodigal Son from the Gospel of Luke and from Garrison Keillor’s adaptation conveys the same lesson. It is the style, the mood and the apparent influence of the time that it was written in that made the difference. Just as the biblical version was probably easier to understand for the people of the past, the modern, humorous version is just as easy for us to comprehend. The important thing is that it is understood for that is what a parable is created to do, to convey a lesson.