Eli, Hebrew Prophets, and the Old Testament

“Eli Stand Alone stood at the window of the cabin and watched the water slide past the porch.  It was getting higher, but they had done that before, open the gates just a little and let the stream come up over the sides of the channel and wash against the logs.  A lot of trouble for nothing.” (King, 110)

Eli’s name is highly charged with biblical significance.  Not only does the word “Eli” mean “My God” in Hebrew, it is also a reference to the Old Testament prophets (Smith, 76).  There are several significant figures named Eli or a derivative of the name in the Hebrew bible; the names Elijah and Elisha are both written in their abbreviated form as “Eli” in the text.  Like these prophets, King’s Eli is a wise man, trained both academically and with deep spiritual connections.  Not only was he a university professor, but he also demonstrates his connection to the land and his people by refusing to move from his home and allow the dam to flood the area.  His experiences also prefigure the other later narratives in much the same way that the Old Testament prefigures the New Testament (Smith, 76).  For example, his experience at the Sun Dance as a child, in which a man appears to be taking pictures of the event, foreshadows the incident at the end of the book in which George Morningstar does much the same thing.  He also makes prophetic statements about what will happen with the dam: while Sifton finds that the dam looks “Sort of white.  Like a shell,” Eli replies “Reminds me of a toilet” (King, 136).  Throughout the book, the toilet at The Dead Dog Cafe is constantly overflowing, and in the end, the dam follows suit, bursting and destroying Eli and his cabin in the process.

The name of Eli also appears to be a direct intertextual reference to the character that appears in Louise Erdrich‘s works, Love Medicine and Tracks.  King’s reference to “other Native American texts typifies a range of references that move readers into other imaginative Native American landscapes” (Smith, 76).  It is interesting that this may be the case, since King’s novel is accessible to readers with a western world view; it may be that it acts as somewhat of a stepping stone into indigenous literature.

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3 responses to “Eli, Hebrew Prophets, and the Old Testament

  • Sara

    This blog looks fantastic – I am really looking forward to grading it.

    Just to kill two birds with one stone here. I will be grading your annotated bibliography on Thursday. I am sorry for the delay.

    Thanks Amanda!

  • doctorsara

    Eli also refers to the Manitoba MLA Elijah Harper who voted against the Meech lake Accord. I believe he was Ojibwa/ Cree (he recently died). His vote not only symbolically protested the lack of gov’t interest in negotiating self-governance, but also physically changed the fortunes of an entire gov’t. In short, Eli, like Elijah, kicked settler-colonist ass. I am surprised that you didn’t note this fact. As well, I think you needed to expand on who these biblical prophets were – is Eli a prophet in the Old Testament tradition? he would seem to because he suffers and dies….what are the implications of such an allusion?

    The layout of your blog is amazing, but the substance needs to be there too.

  • doctorsara

    Please note that you do not have to post any of my comments and your grade sheet will be posted in the assignment drop box later on today (apr 22).

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