Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

This comic monologue, as do others in Sholom Aleichem’s repertoire, features a talkative and amusing narrator who is fully absorbed with the events and problems associated with the story he presents to his listener. Aside from recounting the intricacies of his comical and unbelievable tale, often ending with a punch line or twist of the plot, such a monologuist invariably focuses the reader’s attention on the personality of the narrator. What the reader sees, then, are the author’s “brushstrokes” whereby the character and personal peculiarities of the narrator are assembled.

This narrative-within-a-narrative, as one notices, is the story of Sholom Shachnah, collected and told by a nameless Kasrilevke merchant to his listener, Sholom Aleichem, the familiar, though fictitious, persona of the author Sholom Rabinowitz (alias Sholom Aleichem). It is this persona-narrator who addresses the reader directly and through whose senses and final reaction the reader partakes of the comic adventure.

Such a multilayeredness is what allows for a dual characterization to take place, depicting (almost simultaneously) the story’s protagonist and the narrator’s personality. This talkative merchant-narrator ceaselessly turns the reader’s attention to him as the significant (second) player in the monologue by means of a number of attention-getting phrases such as “[Do] you hear what I say?” “Are you listening?” and “Now listen to this.” Other intrusive...

(The entire section is 606 words.)