Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

There are two essential themes which run throughout Elsewhere, Perhaps. The first is of change and continuity in the world and people’s lives; the second, how human beings can transcend their limitations through love and communion.

Throughout the novel Oz uses a variety of devices, both literal and symbolic, to underscore the theme of change and continuity. Events in the kibbutz proceed within the time frame of the Hebrew calendar; forthcoming festivals—for spring, summer, fall, the New Year—are important milestones in the lives of the residents of Metsudat Ram. The endless cycle of the year, which repeats itself both in nature and in the individual, is an integral part of an agricultural society such as the kibbutz. Yet in Elsewhere, Perhaps the ebb and flow of time becomes an important symbolic motif of the continuation of human life across the generations.

Change is seen most obviously in the manner in which characters alter their names or adopt new ones. Reuven Harish was once Harismann; Tomer and Oren, the sons of Ezra and Bronka, have changed their last name to Geva, to be more Israeli, and Rami Rimon’s original name was Avraham Rominov. Tellingly, these persons have shifted their names to reveal, rather than hide, their identities. They aspire to return to a culture that is both traditionally Jewish and yet authentically new, a culture that embraces the best of the past and the future.

Such is not the case with Zechariah Berger, the Munich impresario. His revised name is Siegfried, which he wears as a taunt against the Germans among whom he lives....

(The entire section is 662 words.)