While Henne is the main character in Singer’s story, the community plays a vital role, at times performing as a single entity with a single voice. The story is set in a very insular village in Poland before World War I, and it is told by one of Henne’s neighbors. Although Singer refers to gentile characters a couple of times, the community in which Henne Fire lived seemed to be primarily Jewish. Everyone knows one another, and Henne is especially well-known throughout the village.
Singer depicts the villagers constantly attempting to mollify Henne’s rage. After her husband left and she was unable to work, many people brought food to her house—‘‘in a small town one is not allowed to starve,’’ notes the narrator. Henne’s actions and behavior deeply concerned the entire village, especially after her house burned to the ground and she had nowhere to live. The rabbi eventually allowed her to live with his family, but the community decided that it was best if she had her own fireproof home, and a group collaborated and contributed their labors to build Henne a new house.
As much as the villagers seemed wary of Henne, there was also a note of guilt in their attitudes toward her. The narrator mentions that Henne ‘‘suffered greatly for her sins,’’ but also notes that the villagers were loathe ‘‘to pay for the sins of another’’ by tolerating Henne’s crazy behavior. In a few instances, the...
(The entire section is 1137 words.)
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