The prologue in the book of Jonah begins with an introduction of the protagonist, who is Jonah himself, and continues to prepare the reader for the rest of the narrative with vital information. This can be found in verses 1:1-3.
The plot is the order from God to Jonah to preach to the people of Nineveh, Jonah refuses, and eventually is presented with a problem. As the plot thickens, in the end of chapter one Jonah is swallowed by a great fish. This could possibly be the beginning of a sub-plot since the development of the main character changes in a dramatic way.
The characters are Jonah, God, the sailors and the people of Nineveh. Jonah in this story is the protagonist since he is introduced as the main character of the story that is presented with a problem. Jonah’s character is also one dimensional which leads one to believe that he is of flat character. The antagonist is the sum of what God adds to the development of Jonah’s character. With that in mind the antagonist’s character in this narrative is definitely round in nature because there are many dimensions to this particular role.
The agents in the story, the sailors and the people of Nineveh also seem to be of flat character because they really only serve one purpose in the story. The sailors could possibly have some traces of round character because of the ethical lessons that are displayed through their existence in the story such as their final decision to believe in God. If this were a children’s book, one could consider the worm that ate the vine away to have a non-character type because it simply moves the story along and nothing else.
The selectivity involved was clearly chosen to make the narrative applicable to the reader. What is meant is this; the scenarios that happen to Jonah are necessary in selectivity in order to allow the reader to understand the purpose for writing the book of Jonah. Take for instance the vine in chapter four verses five through eleven.
In summary, this part of the story goes like this; Jonah was uncomfortable so God made a vine that grew up over his head and Jonah was happy about the vine. Then God provided a worm to eat the vine away and when the sun rose, God provided a scorching wind that really made Jonah uncomfortable. Then Jonah thought to himself ‘it would be better for me to die.’ So what happens is God uses this vine to show Jonah how important the people of Nineveh are to Him because they are people and Jonah’s vine, is just a vine.
Though generally speaking, narratives usually don’t have much dialogue but considering that this book is only four chapters long, the percentage of how much is used is slightly above normal. This can be seen with the sailors in chapter one verses six through twelve and again in most of chapter four where Jonah appears to be conversing with God through prayer.
Table summarizing percentage of dialogue
Jonah + God
Jonah + Sailors
· Consider the fact that there are only 48 verses in the whole book. Over one fourth is dialogue.
· Consider the fact that this is a narrative which generally doesn’t have much dialogue.
There is an obvious use of Hebrew poetry used in chapter two of the narrative and is just more unnecessary proof that Hebrew poetry is very spontaneously used in much of the ancient world. This literary device highlights Jonah’s despair and how he remembers his Lord, as we can see in verse seven, and his dedication or possibly rededication to the Lord.
Sarcasm and Ridicule
By the tone of the author of this narrative, in my opinion, there is a considerable amount of sarcasm in Jonah’s voice. First of all, he was obviously preaching while he didn’t want to as we can see in the first verse of chapter four. Then, he was greatly displeased and became angry because his predictions of what was going to happen were correct; God would not destroy them.
In my opinion, there are many dramatic reversals in the book of Jonah considering how short the book actually is. The first one can be found in chapter one where Jonah runs away from God. The next one can be found also in chapter one where Jonah is thrown overboard by the sailors and then we see the next obvious one where Jonah is swallowed by a great fish. One could consider when Jonah was in the fish, his reaction, to be a dramatic reversal but honestly I’m sure most people would be repenting rather quickly if they found themselves in the belly of a great fish. I would consider the fact that Jonah is unhappy to the point of death a dramatic reversal, because most of the time God’s prophets are loving and gentle.
One would think that the structure of the whole story can be found by studying the functions of the narrative. For the functions cannot be understood without proper structure. For instance, leading up to chapter four is what makes chapter four understood as having a theological function which is the fact that God loves and cares for everyone in the world and not just the Jews, or the people who are in nature of good report. Chapter four reveals the nature of God which shows the readers and Jonah, that he loves all people.
Analysis of poetic sub-genre in chapter two of Jonah
In the beginning of verse five, one can see that there is a synonymous parallelism used to explain the positioning of where Jonah was before being rescued by the Lord. It seems at though the beginning of verse six is synonymous to the statement in verse five and also with itself. There are mostly bicolons in this particular poem but as we can see in verses three and five of chapter two, there are tricolons at the beginnings of the verses. We can also see that there stanzas at the beginning of verse seven because a new idea is introduced of the last stanza. We can also see this same thing happening at the beginning of verse eight.
As one can observe, there are somewhat great shifts in emotion in this poem which allows this to be labeled a lyrical poem because it without question, communicates feeling. Although lessons could be taken from this poem such as in verse eight which says, “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs” (NIV, Jonah 2:8), this poem should be generally labeled lyrical because the majority of the poem is expressing feeling.
Written by Nace Howell through the grace of the Lord Jesus
The Holy Bible: New International Version, electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996, c1984).