Page 73 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 44

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pattern. The father is not only dominating but also hysterical,
crude and totally impenetrable to argument and sympathy. The
mother, too, is extreme of her type, unquestionably accepting her
husband’s lead. There is no normally modulated conversation,
everything is shouted. The materialistic values generally pilloried
by the artist are presented so crudely as to strain credulity. Mr.
Frieman is the stage philistine who does not wrap up his teaching.
To his daughter in the course of an argument over a possible
suitor he says, “One of these days, Rosemary,. . . you’ll learn that
money matters as well.” He does not seem to allow for the possi­
bility that the most likely way to convince his daughter, even
granted his own opinions, might be to argue on a different plane.
But he opens with a high-pitched statement of crass materialism
and he retains that pitch throughout, even into disaster. Not sur­
prisingly then, the delicate Rosemary is repelled, not only by her
parents but by all that they represent. This world is unbearable
for her, all of a piece. It is symbolized by the room in which she
sits, quite comfortable, “the heated room seemed more oppress­
ive, more constricting than ever. Long, overheated, over­
furnished, with its pale, fitted carpet, bad pictures, electric fire, it
was suffocating her, heating her cheeks to flame.” All the images
used by Rosemary, in or out of quotes, to summon up her world,
“the tight little Jewish circle” as she calls it, suggest limitation, a
crabbing constraint. She wants to break free but does not quite
know how, nor does she possess the maturity to contrive this by
her own authentic direction.
The possibility of liberation comes to her in the shape of one
Bernard, Jewish but non-conformist, a research student of Eng­
lish literature, who falls in love with and wants to marry her. Her
father is horrified by this possibility. He does not try to neutralize
the matter, to offer his potential son-in-law a partnership in his
business for example, or to suggest an alternative more subtly. He
attacks crudely, blindly, insultingly. In principle, a far more radi­
cal threat could have been made. For example, the potential
suitor might not have been interested in bourgeois marriage in
the first place. He might not have been Jewish. In this instance,
Bernard tries to be appreciative of Jewishness and to distinguish
between over-emphasis of material comfort and positive warmth.
He is obviously not going to be wealthy as a lecturer in English
literature, but, from the Frieman’s point of view, one would have
thought that there could be worse prospects. In fact Bernard