The Spiritual and Religious References of the Magic Barrel

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In the story "The Magic Barrel", Salzman uses supernatural powers to lead Finkle to choose his daughter as his bride by causing him pain, influencing his faith in God and appearing as a fantasy. ‘‘The Magic Barrel'' traces a young man's struggle to come to terms with his identity and poses the religious question of how people, Jews and others, may come to love God. Is human love, the story asks, a necessary first step to loving God? (Marie Rose Napierkowski. Vol. 8.).

In Malamud's story the "The Magic Barrel" takes us through the trial and tribulations of Leo Finkle, a rabbinical student to be ordained, and his struggle with his faith in God and his reasons for entering the world of religion. Finkle also struggles with his indecisions concerning exactly what love represents, and if he has ever experienced human love and whether he must love another in order to grasp the true concept of love for his God. Leo realizes that he is a cold person who cannot love God as he should, because as of yet he had not found his love for man or any human being. When Finkle falls in love with Salzman's daughter, Stella, he learns that he must deal with his own shortcomings too.

"The Magic Barrel portrays Salzman as a crook, possessing supernatural powers, and being God-like. Salzman appears in places, in seems out of nowhere, he exists in the realm of "sheer fantasy" and "in the earthy sphere of gefilte fish, dingy tenements, and Broadway cafeterias" (Reynolds 101). In the story, Salzman is seen as human in some aspects and as possessing powers in others. The way he appears and disappears, and the references made to his insights into Finkle's needs and desires. The references made toward his office being in the air, and him chanting the prayers of the dead, are all references to the God like powers Salzman is supposed to possess. He is a "scheming pimp" and "holy spirit", placed on earth to bring Leo Finkle from an arid knowledge of the law to the perception that he can...
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