In the Beginning, Potok’s fourth published book, marked a stylistic advance in his art. In its extensive use of flashbacks and impressionistic language, Potok moved forward and backward in time creating concrete worlds suffused with the stuff of dreams, preparing the reader for the final vision of the climax. The novel is David Lurie’s story. Now a teacher, Lurie’s reminiscences transport him to his sixth year. At the close of the novel, Lurie has become a graduate student at the University of Chicago.
The Luries, an Orthodox Jewish family, emigrated from Poland and settled in the Bronx. David’s father, Max, founded the Am Kedoshim (Holy Nation) Society to bring fellow Jews to the United States and away from the bloody pogroms that plagued their homeland. Max Lurie is full of rage at the Gentiles who perpetrate such violence. David himself falls victim to anti-Semitism after he accidentally runs over the hand of a neighbor boy with his tricycle.
Eddie Kulansky torments the sickly David, who struggles in his thoughts against the bullies of the world. David dreams of the Golem of Prague, similar to Frankenstein’s monster, and imagines his putting to rest all those who would persecute the Jews.
Though he is frequently ill, David is (as are all Potok’s narrators) a prodigy, making adults uncomfortable with his questions and picking up attitudes of anger against the Gentiles. With the failure of Max Lurie’s real estate business during the Depression and the financial ruin of the Am Kedoshim Society, the family must face Max’s own depression. Max’s wife, Ruth, the widow of Max’s brother David (Max married her according to the Law of Moses) is frail and superstitious. Ruth reads to her son in German, and the young...
(The entire section is 726 words.)