The Stories

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Author: Sidney Richman
Editor: Jennifer Smith
Date: 2001
From: Short Stories for Students(Vol. 13. )
Publisher: Gale
Document Type: Critical essay
Length: 960 words

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The initial tale in the collection, "The First Seven Years," might illustrate them all; for the opposition and final integration of Feld, the shoemaker, and Sobel, his assistant, is pure Malamud. The aged Feld is the real center of the story by virtue of the special moral demands imposed upon him. Like most of the protagonists in the stories, Feld must choose between alternate values; and the choice, made in terror and suffering, distinguishes finally the shoemaker from the mensch.Techniques so delicately balanced, however, can easily become uncoupled and spill over either into outright fantasy or the grotesque. While it is true that Malamud rarely loses control of his Jewish tales, he does occasionally slip.

Like Morris Bober, Feld is in part the victim of his own goodness. Spinning daydreams out of the February snow, and agonizing over memories of his youth in a Polish shtetl, the shoemaker has sworn to create for his daughter Miriam a better life than he has known. But the dream, with true Malamud irony, redounds not to Feld's glory but feeds the guilt which tortures his relationship to Sobel, a spectral young-old refugee who five years before had saved Feld from ruin by becoming his assistant. Aware without full consciousness that Sobel labored only for love of Miriam, Feld arranges a date for his daughter with a young accounting student who is the harbinger of a better life. For this action, Feld immediately...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|H1420037594