Pride Comes Before the Fall
In the short stories “The Bill” (1951) and “Take Pity” (1958) by Bernard Malamud, the author focuses on the theme of victimization that can be associated with the characters’ pride, and in their cases, willfulness. In “The Bill,” Ms. Panessa, an elderly woman who partners with her husband in a family-owned delicatessen, unwittingly victimizes herself and others with her own sense of honor. Similarly, in “Take Pity,” the main character, Eva Kalish, owns a grocery store with her husband in a “dead neighborhood” (175). Akin to the relationship Panessa develops with Mr. Schlegel in “The Bill,” when Kalish becomes a widow, she is caught in a vicious cycle wherein her pride and self-sufficiency contribute to the anguish she causes herself and Mr. Rosen, the ex-coffee salesman who wants to badly to assist her in her time of need. The symbolism in Both “The Bill” and “Take Pity” enhances readers’ understanding of the significance of the theme. Both narratives feature two prevalent symbols – the nuclear family and the stores they own. Early in “The Bill,” the author reveals what appears to be a strained relationship between the Panessas and their own daughters. The narrator says, “They had just bought [the delicatessen] with the last of their money…so as not to depend on either of their daughters. To be completely independent of them, Panessa, a retired factory worker, withdrew his three thousand of savings and bought this little delicatessen store” (86). Rather than looking forward to their retirement period, their golden years as a time when they might have time to spend with their daughters and their in-laws, the Panessas seem to project their own children’s discontent with having to “deal” with them in their old age. In a real way, while the joys of parenthood and having a family ought to have conjured a sense of pride and fulfillment, the author’s language suggests that the elderly couple feel very much...
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