Malamud and Anti-Semitism
Throughout his fictional work, Bernard Malamud often focuses on the “Jewish persecution theme with overtones of universal inhumanity to man” (Field and Field xvi). Malamud himself has said, “The suffering of the Jews is a distinct thing for me. I for one believe that not enough has been made of the tragedy…Somebody has to cry – even if it’s a writer, twenty years later” (Cappell 10). The short stories, “The Armistice,” “The German Refugee,” and “The Jew Bird,” all develop the theme of the suffering among the Jewish characters. In all three of these stories, the protagonist is a Jew attempting to take refuge during or after World War II. Although Malamud may not have all his characters undergo physical suffering, each definitely experiences the pain of being a victim of anti-Semitism. Morris Lieberman, a Jewish grocer, becomes obsessed with the escalating war in Europe and faces growing hostility from an German American butcher who admires the Nazi’s will to conquer. Characterized by critics as “neither whimsical nor comic but heavily ironic” (Marovitz 1), this story links two parallel situations in New York and France (1). When the central character Morris was a child living in Russia, he witnessed a Jewish clergyman being attacked and killed by a peasant. Thirty years later, when Morris is living in America, the owner of a small grocery store in Brooklyn, this memory comes to haunt him as he hears the news of the Nazi invasion of European countries. “The reports of their persecution of the Jews that he heard over the radio filled him with dread” (Malamud Complete Stories 3). Clearly, even though Morris has put physical distance between himself and the place where Jews are being actively persecuted, he is still very affected by the news of their suffering. While he is saddened by the news, Morris becomes hopeful, as he listens to more broadcasts, that the tide may be turning when the French resist the Nazi invasion: “Morris placed...
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