Page 68 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 1

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the symbol of social injustice, he is also the victim of “racial”
injustice. His essential tragedy was to be born into a minority
group, literally, in his own words, to be “whipped before you
are born.”
Mr. Max feels deeply for this boy. He makes a moving appeal
for understanding of his crime. Strange as it may seem, this act
of murder for Bigger, hemmed in as he was by all society, was a
desperate act of creation, the one moment when he tasted full
freedom to act. Of course, no plea could save Bigger from death.
In the trial Mr. Max stands out brilliantly. He pleads for the
Negro on the broad basis of an America in grave danger from a
conflict of races which only a deeper-going justice can ameliorate.
When Mr. Max meets Bigger for the first time in his cell, and
seeks to win the confidence of the boy, Bigger warns Mr. Max:
“Mr. Max, if I was you I wouldn’t worry none. If all folks
was like you, then maybe I wouldn’t be here. But you can’t
help that now. They ’re going to hate you for trying to help
me. I ’m gone. They got me.”
To this, Mr. Max answers simply:
“Oh, they’ll hate me, yes . . . But I can take it. T h a t ’s the
difference. I ’m a Jew and they hate me, but I know why and
I can fight. But sometimes you can’t win no matter how
you fight. . . . But you need not worry about their hating
me for defending you. The fear of hate keeps many whites
from trying to help you and your kind. Before I can fight
your battle, I ’ve got to fight a battle with them.”
In these simple words, we learn how keenly Mr. Max realizes
the identity of his position as a Jew with that of Bigger Thomas,
the Negro—the identity residing in their being members of
minority groups in the complex of American life. But he realizes
their difference also; at least Mr. Max, the Jew, knows himself
as inheritor of an ancient culture and civilization.
IV
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speaking of the Jew as literary Symbol, it is difficult to
differentiate between all ar t which in essence is working with
symbols, and this specific use of symbolism by novelists to
convey certain attitudes and values which they cherish.
When Ernest Hemingway in
The Sun Also Rises
depicts
Robert Cohn, the prize-fighter, as a symbol of disillusionment
after the first Great War, and chooses a prize-fighter because he,
Hemingway, at the time believed in violence and force as an
arbitral power in human affairs, one can be sure that the au thor
is using the Jew here as a symbol of the age. Yet he realizes
Robert Cohn, his hero, as a world-weary character, and as such
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