Literary Analysis of David and Goliath

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  • Topic: David, Saul, Goliath
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A Character Analysis of David and Goliath

When studying any piece of literature there are many different methods and techniques that can be used. The Bible, in specific, is often referred to as a source of moral code, hope, and answers to social, ethical, and political questions. However, this incredibly influential book can also be read as if it were any other novel. The events, settings, and characters can all be evaluated for what they are, forgetting the notion that they are from a religious text. This approach is called narrative criticism. When regarding to the Bible in this way, we do not need to know any historical information or focus on seeking a deeper theological meaning. Instead, the stories are evaluated in terms of how well the characters, settings, and events portray the overall theme or message of the narrative. The story of David and Goliath in particular, does a great job in using its characters to achieve this goal. Though there are many different interpretations of this story, I am going to focus on one: the idea that power and strength is not needed to succeed or win, but instead it is our heart and determination, intelligence, and above all, our faith in God. To get this point across, the implied author uses narratives to tell us about David and Goliath as well as show us specific and relevant character traits through their actions and beliefs.

In order to understand how the characters portray the message of the story we must first develop a set of traits based on what the information given to us by implied author. In the very beginning of the story we are given a detailed description of Goliath:

And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion names Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. He had greves of bronze on his legs and a javelin of bronze slug between his shoulders. The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his spear’s head weighted six hundred shekels of iron; and his shield-bearer went before him” (1 Samuel 17: 5-7).

Based on this description we can easily come to the conclusion that Goliath is extremely strong and powerful and an experienced warrior. He is prepared, confident, and willing to take on whatever he is faced with. It is also explained that Goliath’s height is “six cubits and a span,” which is about nine feet in today’s society, making him extremely tall. Furthermore, we are explicitly told that he is a “champion,” alluding to the idea that he never loses a battle. It is here where the implied reader would initially assume that Goliath is most likely to prevail. It is also stated in the text, through the words of David, that Goliath is uncircumcised. Though this minor detail can easily be overlooked it is important to note because it demonstrates Goliaths lack of faith in God. In addition to what the implied author explicitly tells us, there are several characteristics of Goliath that can be presumed from his own actions as well as those around him. For example, Goliath’s character can be described as arrogant and cocky based on his command to fight an Israelite to death for victory. He shouts to the Israelites, “Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants; but if I prevail against him, then you shall be our servants and serve us” (1 Samuel 17: 8-9). Before the battle can even begin, Goliath immediately takes it upon himself to set the terms and conditions of how to fight the battle at Socoh. He becomes very commanding and authoritative, bossing everyone around. Instead of both armies fighting one another, like a typical battle, Goliath is so confident in his fighting ability that he declares a one-on-one battle to determine the outcome of the battle. In reaction to Goliath’s demand, Saul and all...
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