By Leonard Unger
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Extra resources for AMERICAN WRITERS, Volume 4
Jacob resists seduction for four hard years. But, like all Singer heroes, he learns that ultimately the flesh is not to be denied. Despite a crushing sense of guilt and eventual tragedy, he capitulates to Wanda. Before making love to her he insists she take an icy bath and immediately afterward declare herself a daughter of Israel. Their union violates Polish, as well as Jewish, law. Discovery means certain death. Still Jacob experiences his first happiness. Finally ransomed, Jacob returns for Wanda.
He finally becomes a successful neurologist, only to learn science offers no more "truth" or certainty than does religious faith. But for Ezriel's generation the old, fixed values are gone; fear of social failure or political arrest has replaced fear of God. Missing neither group's soft spots, Singer sympathizes with both—the older generation's reluctance to relinquish the past and youth's clamor for rapid change. Caiman Jacoby clearly reflects Singer's mixed feelings; Caiman is as illogical as he is sincere; he cuts down a forest to provide ties for a railroad that can only accelerate the very changes he deplores.
In this encounter Gimpel emerges triumphant. He is more fortunate, therefore, than most of the harassed little people in the collection's other tales. Satan's legions are everywhere, waiting to pounce at first hint of frailty or slackened obedience to God. Like Dostoevski, Singer often directs reader sympathy toward the narrator-as-victim. But his narrators frequently are demons or imps. An unwary reader may find himself pulling for a ISAAC BASHEVIS SINGER / 9 charmingly adroit demon to snare his weak human prey.