Flappity-flap with its frazzled black wings. The frozen foods salesman was sitting at supper with his wife and young son on a hot August evening a year ago. They had been enjoying Kingston, New York, but drove back when Mama got sick in her flat in the Bronx. The bird cawed hoarsely and with a flap of its bedraggled wings—feathers tufted this way and that—rose heavily to the top of the open kitchen door, where it perched staring down.
|Published (Last):||4 August 2018|
|PDF File Size:||4.76 Mb|
|ePub File Size:||6.30 Mb|
|Price:||Free* [*Free Regsitration Required]|
But there can be no mistaking the combination of fantasy and reality in such important stories as "Angel Levine," "Take Pity," "Idiots First," and, above all, "The Jewbird. In "Take Pity," for example, it is not until the end that we become fully aware that the entire interview between Davidov, the census taker, and Rosen, the ex-coffee salesman, takes place in a kind of otherworldly limbo, or purgatory.
At the beginning of "Idiots First" we scarcely recognize Ginzburg as an angel of death, for he speaks in the same cadences and accents as Mendel, who is trying to scrape together enough money to send his retarded son to a relative in California before the hour of his death approaches—as it does at the very end of the story. Thus, in "The Jewbird" the credible incredible, an expression Philip Roth has used about some of his own fiction, occurs.
For the elder Cohen, whom some critics see as an assimilationist, anti-Semitic Jew—though he has not changed his quintessentially Jewish name—Schwartz is a schnorrer, a beggar who does not merit any consideration from either him, his wife, or his young son Maurie. The entire family reacts with amazement. How can a bird, a crow, be the victim of anti-Semitism? Schwartz explains that he is a "Jewbird," fleeing from all kinds of anti-Semites, "also including eagles, vultures, and hawks.
He just cannot stand Schwartz and what he represents. On that first evening, after identifying himself as a Jewbird, Schwartz begins davening praying : "He prayed without Book or tallith [prayer shawl], but with passion. But not Cohen. Malamud has so skillfully developed the dialogue that we suspend disbelief more than willingly to hear all Schwartz has to say and to see its effect on the Cohens.
Schwartz stays until the start of the school year in September. Although he prefers a "human roof" over his head, he settles into the birdhouse on the balcony that Edie buys him, but he is allowed indoors a couple of hours a night to help Maurie with his school-work and the violin.
Remarkably, Maurie improves in both. Schwartz balks, however, when Cohen brings home a bird feeder filled with dried corn. His digestion cannot take it. So Edie feeds him herring, surreptitiously slipping an occasional piece of potato pancake or a bit of soup meat.
When Schwartz refuses, Cohen embarks on a campaign of secretly harassing the bird, even bringing home a cat, ostensibly a pet for Maurie but in reality a ferocious enemy to Schwartz. The campaign has its comic moments, but both the humor and the comedy have their darker side. In the end, his patience exhausted after his mother has died and Maurie has gotten a zero on an arithmetic test, Cohen directly attacks Schwartz, who vainly tries to fight back. They are alone, and when Edie and Maurie return, Schwartz is gone and Cohen greets them with a badly wounded nose.
In the spring Maurie finds a dead black bird in a small lot near the river, his wings broken, his neck twisted, and both eyes plucked out. Maurie weeps and asks his mother who killed Schwartz.
The Jewbird by Bernard Malamud, 1958
The dominant themes in this short story are the human capacity to foster hatred towards those who are different in the form of anti-Semitism, and the conflict that exists between Jews who have assimilated into American culture and those who have not relinquished their Jewish identity. Humor and irony can be found throughout the story to define the characters and the conflict that exists between the protagonist Schwartz and the dominant antagonist Harry Cohen. Anti-Semitism, assimilation, and personal identity comprise the story of a talking crow which lands …show more content… The traditional Jewish culture, symbolized by Schwartz, has held onto its spiritualism and values such as religious observation, dress, compassion, and humanism. For this reason, behaving differently and looking differently than the mainstream culture, traditional Jews often struggle against anti-Semitism. On the other hand, assimilated American Jews, symbolized by Cohen, have relinquished traditional values for the mainstream culture often leaving all reminders behind, even celebrating mainstream holidays such as Christmas.
The dominant themes in this short story are the human capacity to foster hatred towards those who are different in the form of anti-Semitism, and the conflict that exists between Jews who have assimilated into American culture and those who have not relinquished their Jewish identity. Humor and irony can be found throughout the story to define the characters and the conflict that exists between the protagonist Schwartz and the dominant antagonist Harry Cohen. Anti-Semitism, assimilation, and personal identity comprise the story of a talking crow which lands …show more content… It is ironic that Schwartz, who is displaced and constantly pursued by anti-Semitism, lands smack in the home of a Jewish anti-Semite. This is where the conflict begins. Schwartz has established himself in the Cohen home, liked by Edie and Maurie, in spite of Mr.
Analysis of "The Jewbird" Essay