Generating his creative source from Genesis of the Yiddish Bible, Itzik Manger combined
modern poetic flow with biblical writing style in his poem Hagar Leaves Abraham’s House.
Though it takes only 3 sentences in Genesis to depict the story, Manger used his imagination
and poetic style to expand it into a wondrous 13 stanzas poem. This poem brings subtle beauty
to the classical scriptures through the writer’s imagination, usage of explicit parallels and
contrasts, deliberate character depiction of dominant and submissive characters, and
deliberate interpretation of the story’ setting.
Manger created a contrast between Hagar’s gloomy internal state and the seemingly
normal surrounding environment to highlight Hagar’s loneliness and frustration. In Genesis,
Hagar's story is full of element of tragedy. Being a foreign Egyptian slave woman, Hagar was
despised by the society, treated with disrespect, no better than a dirty, tossed-around rag.
After Hagar bared Abraham’s child, Sarah, Abraham’s wife, became jealous and started to
abuse Hagar. In the original text, there is little detailed description about the characters’
affections other than a single line noting that "Sarah dealt harshly with her" (16:6 NRSV). Yet
Manger, in his poem, used the setting as a foil to further emphasis Hagar’s desperation and
painful sufferings. The poem starts with a subtle description of an ordinary morning like every
other: “The dawn is blue at the window, three times the rooster crowed. Outside the horse is
neighing, Impatient for the road”. This ordinary scene later serves as contrast to Hagar’s
internal turmoil. Meanwhile, Manger creates a sense of unfamiliarity within what is familiar.
While everything in the house seems familiar, eg. “the familiar gray room”, “houses slowly
scrapes backward in a haze”, the main character Hagar faces the cruel destiny of being exceled
from this once familiar environment. The personification of the pony also serves to maximize
the contrast between Hagar and others’ indifference toward her departure. In the poem, “Give
me a chance to show you how to make the highway tame” shows the ebullience and
impatience of the pony as it does not feel the slightest of Hagar’s sadness.
Manger also fully exploited difference in social status and gender inequality between
Hagar and Abraham to further exaggerate Hagar’s sufferings. In the eighth stanza Abraham’s
silken hat indicates wealth which suggests the dramatic difference in social status between men
and women during that time. Meanwhile, Manger applied...