Page 80 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 44

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
cent; he has contributed to the general misery. A complex genesis
has taken place in the unfolding family drama: (1) His parents
had early on pretended that he was three years younger than he
was in actuality, in order to sustain his reputation as a youthful
prodigy, i.e. he was already supposed to be something other than
his natural self. (2) On his bar mitzvah day (at sixteen years old!)
he had coupled with his sister Bella, who, since then, had per­
sisted in wearing her childish socks (her age had also been dis­
torted in accordance with this fabricated story so as to contrive a
more convincing scenario). (3) His sister Esther had married out
and been cut off. So she was no longer recognized as being a
member of the family — a further falsification. (4) His father had
wanted him to go into Law. This, we see too as a distortion of
nature, “Perhaps he should not have mentioned the Law bit,
Rabbi Zweck thought. In all honesty it was what
he,
his father
wanted him to do, and Rabbi Zweck knew by instinct, that his
expectations and hopes for Norman had contributed in large
measure to his son’s breakdown. So again, Norman is condemned
to making an unsuccessful attempt to play someone else’s script.
And now for Norman’s own guilt: (5) His friend David had loved
his religious sister Esther. But Norman was jealous. He, an
undeclared homosexual, loved David and so deployed his best
efforts to scotch the budding romance, by lying separately to each
one about the other’s true feelings. When Esther ran off to the
Gentile, John (whom she later married), David killed himself.
And it was from that time on that Norman began to take the pills
that were to hook him.
The elected member
is the most complex and the most depressing
of the Jewish family novels discussed here in detail. And it rep re­
sents the most extreme point in the range of possible reaction to
background family pressure for the individual singled out,
elected. Although he is, in spite of everything, still tied to his fam­
ily and to his community by the history that will involve him life
long, he can only survive in desperate madness. Death, even a
symbolic death, can cut someone off, as some authoritarian fig­
ures in the fiction can decree when the offspring marry out. But
we see, time and again, that the symbol of death does not act out
the death itself, because the branch, which is supposed to be cut
down, remains green. Of course, the mad Norman is also not
dead. However, madness is also a way o f cutting oneself off from
the live experience of others. Further, it is the ultimate in human