Page 53 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 39

Basic HTML Version

LERNER / THE MAKING OF A PERSON
47
and a mincing walk tha t causes a tinkling sound in the sand?”11
Despite this allusion to Isaiah and o th e r scattered references to
Jewish life and lore, the Wife’s Juda ism is somehow not intrinsic.
Wife is essentially a weak person who is manipulated by those
around her. She is conscious o f the role he r affair with the Guest
may have in augmen ting he r teen-age d augh te r’s rebellious­
ness,12yet she herself, with her d augh te r’s help, rebels against he r
husband’s control: “I have let my hair grow and my eldest has
shown me how to uncurl it from its natural Jewish curl. T he wind
tosses my hair now; I am gentile. My husband shakes his h ead .”13
Eventually, as she loses control o f he r life, courts suicide and
enters depression, she loses control o f h e r home, relinquishing it
to the Housekeeper he r husband has h ired .14When she is finally
killed by a bus while in pursuit o f a man whom she though t to be
the Guest, h e r death comes as no surprise to either o f the two
versions o f h e r life. She simply cannot cope with the complexity of
life and must, from a literary point o f view, succumb.
Like
Journal/Nocturnal, Her Mothers
(1975) represents experi­
mentation with still ano ther form. It is a collective memoir o f a
group of high-school classmates whose lives are recoun ted with
the aid o f the ir yearbook. The re is also a twenty-fifth reun ion to
help the book reach into the present. Ano ther innovative device is
the use o f a refra in to tell a number o f awful tru ths in the form o f a
mother-daugh ter dialogue. One example which occurs fairly
early is:
‘“Mother, I ’m p regnan t with a girl.’
‘What is she doing?’
‘She’s crying.’”15
The central charac ter who reports the lives o f he r classmates is the
most successful member o f the class — a writer named Beatrix
11 Isaiah III, 16. “The Lord said: ‘Because the daughters of Zion / Are so vain /
And walk with heads thrown back, / With roving eyes, / And with mincing gait, /
Making a tinkling with their feet’—”
The Prophets: A New Translation
(Phila.:
JPS, 1978). Broner,
Journal/Nocturnal and Seven Stories
(New York: Harcourt
Brace and World, 1968), p. 38,
Nocturnal.
12
Ibid.,
p. 76,
Nocturnal.
13
Ibid.
, p. 106
,Journal.
14
Ibid.,
pp. 140-144.
15 Broner,
Her Mothers
(N.Y.: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1975), p. 12.