The story of Joseph can be found in the Bible, in the Book of Genesis, chapters 37 through 50. It is interrupted briefly in chapter 38, but resumes in chapter 39.
Readers of early heroic literature, such as the Iliad, Beowulf, or the early King Arthur versions, will notice that “Joseph” is different. Although it is ancient literature, it is written in a modern style. The story action is very complicated but it is fast paced, it is very descriptive, and it is lacking the tiresome repetition found in so much of early literature.
As literature, the story of Joseph is nearly perfect. The story structure is easy to discern. A clear exposition opens the door into Joseph’s world. The introduction of the conflict is obvious. The action rapidly rises in tension. Finally, it reaches a magnificent climax as satisfying as the scene at Tolkien’s Cracks of Doom. The plot sizzles with jealousy, betrayal, false accusation, unjust imprisonment, and forgetful ingratitude.
As a character, the noble Joseph isn’t so perfect that he is unbelievable. His thoughtless words, about his contemptible brothers and about his own implausible dreams, set up the conditions that lead to his conflict and certify his humanity. Finally, even though he is imperfect, he grows and changes. He becomes a powerful man who learns how to use his power and his words wisely and graciously.
The Bible tells one unified story of how God rescues people who are in terrible danger, and “Joseph” is truly one of the most enjoyable parts of the epic!
SPOILER ALERT! Don’t look at the chart until you have read the story! Then click on the story title below to go to my story chart. The chart summarizes the elements of literature in the story: Characters, Setting, Conflict, Plot and Theme. It is a great tool to talk about the story after you have read it.