Literature Word of the Week – Ben-Hur

26 Weeks to a Better Understanding of Literature

I’m aiming to improve my knowledge around all things English literature, and to help me do this I thought I’d start by learning a new literary word every week,  A-Z.  Although knowing me it might not be in any alphabetic order.  I might treat this more like a list on random shuffle.

So, I find a word that relates to literature and research the following on it:

  • How does it sound?
  • What does it mean?
  • Who invented it (if known)
  • When did the word come about?
  • Example to be used in a sentence (preferable in spoken form).


Week 4:


Okay, so this week’s word isn’t strictly literary in it’s own form but I was utterly amazed and shocked to learn so much about this piece of work.

How many times have I’ve seen Ben-Hur on TV?  A quantifiable amount but I’ve never seen the whole 1959 epic from start to finish, although I’ve probably watched it all (1959 version) in mini segments over the years it’s been shown in my lifetime.

Ben-Hur is like that comfy cushion you always see on your TV without fail on an Easter or Christmas bank holiday.  In fact it was on just this past Monday.  As always my channel surfing brought me to the gigantic movie yet I never settled to watch it to the end, once again!

And for all  those viewings, I never actually realised that it was born from a novel, nor that Ben-Hur’s very interpretation is “A Tale of the Christ” (no wonder it’s always on at Easter!).

A historical novel, published 1880, about the early days of Christianity by Lew (Lewis) Wallace (1827-1905), an American novelist who had been a general in the Civil War.  It was filmed twice by MGM, in 1925 as a silent epic, and in 1959 as an expensive spectacle – The Oxford Companion to English Literature

The novel was so popular it remained on the top American reading list from 1880 all the way through to 1936 when Gone with the Wind was published.

Imagine that – 56 years of being the best selling novel.

Yet the story while simple in tale – Judah Ben-Hur’s adventures in the 1st Century, having to overcome adversity and setting his name straight with good friends to help him along the way, becomes slightly more complex when the story of Christ is told along the same time line, in the same story, and thus Ben-Hur becomes a Christian, ditching revenge for love.

It’s certainly made me look at the film in a completely different light.

I wonder what Lew Wallace would have made of the 1959 film epic?  Was it a true adaptation?  Would he of approved of Charlton Heston taking up the reigns of Ben-Hur?  One thing is for sure, Lew certainly enjoyed success on a subject which must have been pretty tricky to approach in writing.

That’s what I love about literature – there is just so much to learn, and looks like I need to catch up on one or two major known things!

Have you ever seen the film Ben Hur from beginning to end in one sitting?  


7 responses to “Literature Word of the Week – Ben-Hur

  1. Pingback: Literature Word of the Week – Pastoral | The Forget-me-Not Cultivation Blog·

  2. Pingback: Literature Word of the Week – Wertherism | The Forget-me-Not Cultivation Blog·

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  4. Pingback: Literature Word of the Week – Utopia | The Forget-me-Not Cultivation Blog·

    • Funnily enough I looked for the book last time I was in a second hand/antique book shop but to no avail. I’d read he was a general which I think must be perhaps where some of his ideas came from, and perhaps his takes on faith?

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