Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Superficially, this story is typical of the dark mood of literary naturalism. Its realistic setting and effective Yiddish dialect heighten these effects. Beginning with his first hints that the mysterious Ginzburg might be more than simply another character, though, Malamud gradually builds toward the mystical vision at the end, which totally changes the meaning of the piece. With the exception of the role of Ginzburg, symbols are used sparingly and seem an uncontrived aspect of the narrative. This is true of the various characters who represent the failure of human values, and even more true of the several references to the sky and stars. Only at the end of the story, when Ginzburg beholds the “shimmering, starry, blinding light that produced darkness,” does the reader connect the heavens and the stars, points of light in a dark universe, with God. Malamud’s ability to combine realism and mysticism in a style that does justice to both in large measure accounts for the powerful impact of “Idiots First.”

Idiots First Bibliography

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Abramson, Edward A. Bernard Malamud Revisited. New York: Twayne, 1993.

Astro, Richard, and Jackson J. Benson, eds. The Fiction of Bernard Malamud. Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, 1977.

Avery, Evelyn, ed. The Magic Worlds of Bernard Malamud. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2001.

Bloom, Harold, ed. Bernard Malamud. New York: Chelsea House, 2000.

Davis, Philip. Experimental Essays on the Novels of Bernard Malamud: Malamud’s People. Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 1995.

Field, Leslie A., and Joyce W. Field, eds. Bernard Malamud: A Collection of Critical Essays. Rev. ed. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1975.

Field, Leslie A., and Joyce W. Field, eds. Bernard Malamud and the Critics. New York: New York University Press, 1970.

Nisly, L. Lamar. Impossible to Say: Representing Religious Mystery in Fiction by Malamud, Percy, Ozick, and O’Connor. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2002.

Ochshorn, Kathleen. The Heart’s Essential Landscape: Bernard Malamud’s Hero. New York: Peter Lang, 1990.

Richman, Sidney. Bernard Malamud. Boston: Twayne, 1966.

Salzberg, Joel, ed. Critical Essays on Bernard Malamud. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1987.

Sío-Castiñeira, Begoña. The Short Stories of Bernard Malamud: In Search of Jewish Post-immigrant Identity. New York: Peter Lang, 1998.