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Effect Of The Schlemiel In The Fixer

684 words - 3 pages

Effect of the Schlemiel in The Fixer

  Throughout literature, many Jewish authors have attempted to capture the innocence and heroism of the Jew through the "schlemiel." In, The Fixer, Bernard Malamud has created a character who has completely embraced the idea of the schlemiel. The schlemiel, as defined by Ruth Wisse in The Schlemiel as A Modern Hero, is a character who stands for a whole race of people (Wisse x). Yakov Bok the protagonist of The Fixer represents all aspects of the Jew: the pain and the foolishness experienced by the Jew felt rolled into one.

The schlemiel also fully embraces the concept of Yiddish humor, a type known not for its comic aspect but for its harshness. Yiddish humor is meant merely to bring out the unfair and foolish treatment of the Jews throughout time (Wisse x). An example of Yiddish humor in The Fixer comes when Bok is arrested for the crime:

he had begged the colonel to let him walk on the sidewalk to lessen his embarrassment, but was forced into the wet centre of the street, and people ontheir way to work had stopped to watch. They gazed at first quietly, then in deep silence, broken by whispers, muttering, and a few jeers. Most seemed to wonder what it was about, but then an uninformed school boy in a blue cap and silver-buttoned coat, poking his fingers up like horns over his head, danced in the snow behind the prisoner, chanting, 'zhid, zhid,' and that awoke murmurs, hoots, and mockery. (67)

This passage is a perfect example of Yiddish humor. It captures the embarrassment of all the Jews, not just that of Bok. The Russians believed that by accusing one Jew of a hideous crime, they were accusing the whole race. They made the Jewish religion out to be a religion of the devil. This passage captures the utter embarrassment of the Jews and the foolishness of the Russians.

Malamud's character Bok completely embraces the idea of the schlemiel. Throughout all the unfair...

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