Abandonment, Rape, and Second Abandonment: Hannah Baker in 13 Reasons Why and the Royal Concubines in 2 Samuel 15–20

  • David Tombs
Part of the Religion and Radicalism book series (RERA)


In this chapter, David Tombs dwells on the tragic events in the popular Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why, which culminate in the rape and subsequent suicide of high school student Hannah Baker. Tombs reads Hannah’s rape intertextually alongside the rape of the royal concubines in 2 Samuel 15–20, suggesting that each narrative invites readers to contemplate its intertext in fresh lights, despite the obvious historical and geographical distance that lies between these traditions. Reading both stories as a literary triptych, he focuses first on the victims’ initial abandonment by those who could perhaps have prevented their rape, then on the rape itself, and finally, their second abandonment in the aftermath of their assault. Tombs argues that this shared sequencing of events creates connections between these two very different texts. Acknowledging the impact of the second abandonment on Hannah Baker allows the reader to see new meaning in the silence surrounding the victims of Absalom’s rapes in 2 Samuel, thus contributing towards wider conversations about rape survivors’ secondary victimization. Tombs also raises questions regarding David’s initial abandonment of his concubines, asking whether this might have been more “intentional” than traditionally assumed. This interpretation opens new possibilities for considering the complicity of Hannah’s friends in her rape through their acts of abandoning her in a vulnerable situation. This intertextual exercise thus invites readers to shift back and forth between the biblical text and the contemporary cultural text, allowing both to inform the other through their shared discourses of rape culture and gender violence.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Tombs
    • 1
  1. 1.University of OtagoDunedinNew Zealand

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