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The Cover
February 6, 2002

Return of the Prodigal Son

Author Affiliations

The Cover Section Editor: M. Therese Southgate, MD, Senior Contributing Editor.

JAMA. 2002;287(5):555. doi:10.1001/jama.287.5.555

Of the some 30 parables in the New Testament, the most often represented in Western art is "The Parable of the Prodigal Son." Even without visual interpretation, the drama of the literary images is such that the reader cannot fail to be impressed. The story contrasts the behavior of a man's two sons after he has given each his portion of his inheritance. The older son is the responsible one: he remains at home, continuing to work with his father. The younger, on the other hand, rushes off to seek a life of adventure. In short order, his inheritance has been squandered. He is reduced, finally, to swilling a stranger's pigs in a foreign land.