The Magic Barrel
By Bernard Malamud
March 26, 2010
Biography of Bernard Malamud
Bernard Malamud was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1914 to Russian Jewish immigrants named Max and Bertha Malamud. He later described his parents as “gentle, honest, kindly people.” Max, the manager of a small grocery store, was the model for Morris Bober, the grocer protagonist ofMalamud’s second novel, The Assistant (1957). Malamud went to high school in Brooklyn and attended the City College of New York, graduating in 1936. In 1942 he received a Master of Arts degree from Columbia University. Malamud did not begin writing seriously until after World War II, when the horrors of the Holocaust became known to the international community. The revelation seems to have made Malamudmore actively aware of his own Jewish identity. “I was concerned with what Jews stood for,” he recalled, “with their getting down to the bare bones of things. I was concerned with . . . how Jews felt they had to live in order to go on living.” In 1945 Malamud married Ann de Chiara. To the Malamud family, traditional Jews, Bernard’s marriage to a gentile woman seemed an unforgivable act. After thewedding Max Malamud went through the rituals of mourning for his son — an act reminiscent of Salzman’s actions in “The Magic Barrel.” Ann and Bernard moved to Oregon in 1949, after Bernard accepted a teaching position at Oregon State University. There, Malamud recalled, “I was allowed to teach freshman composition but not literature because I was nakedly without a Ph.D.” It was at Oregon Statethat Malamud wrote “The Magic Barrel” in the basement of the university library. In 1952 Malamud published his first novel, The Natural, a poignant treatment of the American hero as baseball player. His second novel, The Assistant (1957), is the heartbreaking account of an impoverished grocer and the Catholic drifter who comes to work for him. In 1961 Malamud and his family moved to Vermont, where hetook a job teaching creative writing at Bennington College. I feel that writing courses are of limited value although they do induce some students to read fiction with care.” Malamud won the Pulitzer prize in fiction for his 1966 novel, The Fixer, and thAmerican Library Association’s Notable Book citation for Dubin ‘s Lives in 1979. Malamud continued actively to teach and write almost until hisdeath in 1986.
Place: Yeshiva University, New York City
- Leo Finkle - Lily Hirschorn
- Pinye Salzman - Stella Salzman
One of the main conflicts is the ongoing struggle that Leo has within himself in regards to his own nature. He struggles with two main things in the story: his inner nature andwhether he truly is capable of love-either of God or a woman, and his slight disgust at the commercial nature of the matchmaking process that he has undertaken. the second one especially as he suspects Salzman having manipulated his infatuation with Stella.
Other conflicts in the story exist between Salzman and Leo. Leo is uncomfortable with how businesslike Salzman peddles matches, and then isvery upset that he misrepresents Leo to Lily. Then there is conflict between the two in regards to Stella; Leo wants to meet her, Salzman hesitates, and they have conflict there until Salzman acquiesces.
This occurs when Leo discovers the photo of Stella in manila envelope given to him salzman. Then Leo goes to a salzman, and shows him the photo of the woman he loved. Salzmantakes the photo and says, that this woman can not be. Since that is his daughter, and besides Salzman tells you that this is going to burn in hell because they did not follow their religion and lives differently
Leo is finally going to find Stella and sees her standing on a ski na smoking in a white suit and red shoes. I read says that white dress inspired innocence. Salzman is left...