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Literature Review - Malamud - The Magic Barrel

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Literature Review - Bernard Malamud - The Magic Barrel

Literature Review - Bernard Malamud - The Magic Barrel

Bernard Malamud's story "The Magic Barrel" is a wonderful examination of the life of a confused young Jewish Rabbi. The story is set in uptown New York City, in the not too distant past. Mr. Malamud does an excellent job of describing the meager surroundings in which the story plays out. The setting in this story plays an especially important role since the people the main character Leo meets are from a variety of backgrounds, but all have the common thread of the New York City Jewish community.

The plot in "The Magic Barrel" unfolds as Leo, a young man studying to become a Rabbi is troubled to find a mate. He is made to believe it easier to find work as a Rabbi as a married man. Leo opts to use the services of a marriage broker to ensure he finds the right partner. The use of these "matchmakers" is still around today. Historically, these brokers were more popular since Jewish people take seriously their responsibility to wed. Today most Jewish people meet their mates in school, singles groups, and even blind dates "often arranged through friends, married and unmarried, who try their hand at amateur matchmaking." (Kramer, 1999)

The matchmaker Leo contacts is a humorous fellow named Salzman. Malamud does an excellent job of describing the appearance and character of Mr. Salzman. Salzman makes several attempts to find an appropriate mate for Leo. Leo, however, is unhappy with all of the choices. Some are too old, others not pretty enough or not having enough dowry. He dates one of Salzman's prospects only to be more dissatisfied with his matchmaker since he thinks Salzman has lied to him about the girl's age.

As the story continues, our Leo has been sitting on an unopened envelope of pictures provided by the comical Mr. Salzman. Leo is in a deep soul searching state and has decided not to open the envelope. He at one point even begins to question the faith he has studied and followed for his entire life. At his lowest point, he opens the envelope. As before he rejects the specimens provided by Salzman. Just as he is putting the pictures away, he notices a smaller picture, like the pictures produced by a mall photo booth. He is instantly intrigued by this photo, and runs to Salzman in order to find this woman



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