Anonymous Text preview of this essay: This page of the essay has words. Download the full version above. As he has been completely absorbed in his studies for six years, which has led to his ignorance in his social life, he decides to turn to a professional matchmaker — Pinye Salzman for help. After consulting with the matchmaker, he grows mature both mentally and physically, knowing what love is after meeting Stella and knowing how to love God. In this short story, Bernard Malamud applied symbolism and bring out the theme through two stages: one, where Leo finds his true love and two, where he redefines his identity.
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Shelves: winterto This book made me long for the warm swaddle of classroom discussion. But he is the kind of writer who writes toward themes, and whose seemingly simple stories are packed with layers of meaning and symbolism. This is particularly evident in the endings of his stories, which are often pointedly enigmatic, strange, This book made me long for the warm swaddle of classroom discussion.
This is particularly evident in the endings of his stories, which are often pointedly enigmatic, strange, abrupt, puzzling and haunting. They would be perfect for the classroom setting, where teacher-led discussions can spend big chunks of time teasing out meaning from the text, volleying interpretations and possibilities.
If reading fiction critically is a menage a trois of narrative, aesthetics, and thematics, then I have more or less mastered the first two and too often ignore the third. On some level this is probably fine — we have to be selective about what we process in the art we absorb, or else we would go insane trying and failing to understand everything. We may also have discussed how Malamud is less interested in the reality of Jewish life than in the metaphorical potential of Jewish identity: avatars of human suffering who struggle daily with the pain of living in an unjust world.
We might have theorized about the strange mix of empathy and cruelty with which Malamud treats his characters and has them treat each other.
We probably would have spitballed some thoughts about why a full three of these thirteen stories by a Jewish American author are set in Italy, of all places, and why he populates those stories with educated young men instead of the impoverished old-world geezers of his New York tales. And we would circle back to the big "why" questions of those endings, questions I am woefully unprepared to answer.
Bernard Malamud is a writer of fine tightly, crafted prose. The subject matter and emotional content are not likely to be of interest to younger readers. The Magic Barrel is not light summer beach read short stories. If one considers the mood, these are more appropriate for late fall and its increasing darkness. Something like a short story version of singing the blues.
There is little objectionable in the way of sex, violence or crude language. A lot of my decision to read Bottom line first. Getting into the stories I could not shake the feeling that he was speaking to in ways he could not have planned. On a larger scale there is so much in the air about the threat of immigrants. It can be said that little happens, but we see deeply into the emotional lives of the men who figure at the center of all 13 stories.
Besides Jewish immigrants Magic Barrel includes a few stories of young American men in Italy, also in financial straits and dependent on the locals. The latter is humorous in the sense of calamity on calamity until the reader either collapses under the weight or sees the pilling on as an elaborate joke.
Risking a spoiler these are all sad stories. Loneliness, poverty, fear, lack of confidence, psychic and cultural dislocation are the predominate themes.
The Magic Barrel by Bernard Malamud: Summary & Analysis
Essay: The Magic Barrel by Bernard Malamud