The Golem by Isaac Bashevis Singer Essay - Critical Essays

Analysis

Singer dedicated The Golem to “the persecuted and oppressed everywhere, old and young, Jew and Gentile, in the hope against hope that the time of false accusations and malicious decrees will cease one day.” Dramatized in the story is how bigotry and prejudice mar the lives not only of individuals but also of entire communities. The distress of the falsely accused banker sends shock waves through his community, the Jews as a people being implicated in his purported crime. The blood libel charge, alleging the use of the blood of a Christian child in baking the matzo (unleavened bread) for the Jewish festival of Passover, has resulted in violence against Jews from the Middle Ages through the twentieth century, when it was revived by Nazi propaganda.

The story demonstrates the ignorance that nurtures bigotry through the accused banker’s protestations of his innocence: First, Jewish dietary laws forbid the use of blood, and, second, rabbinic instructions explicitly restrict the ingredients of the Passover matzo to flour and water. The illogic of prejudice is exposed when a gambling, dissolute person’s word is accepted in court over that of an upstanding one simply because they belong to different religious groups. The extreme fear generated by bigotry and persecution is demonstrated in the panicked reaction of the Jewish community to the charge against one of their own, as well as by the supernatural measures that are employed in the community’s defense. Embodying this monstrous fear, ignorance, and irrationality is the golem himself, dangerous in his mindlessness.

Identifying the...

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