(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“Murderers” is a first-person recollection of a crucial summer in the late 1940’s when the unnamed narrator was a young teenager. The narrator is of Polish Jewish descent, living in the tenements of New York City. The recent deaths of some family members, immigrants who never left their neighborhood once they settled there, prompt him to seek adventure by exploring the city. He takes subway rides to exotic locations—sports stadiums, night club districts, amusement parks, and beaches—in search of novelty and excitement. One afternoon he meets three of his friends, Melvin and Arnold Bloom and Harold Cohen. Harold tells him that the rabbi is home, and eleven-year-old Arnold suggests that they go up to the roof. The reader soon understands that spying on the rabbi and his wife from a nearby rooftop with a view of their apartment is an activity that the boys have engaged in many times before. All wait for the narrator to decide for them what to do. He assents and the boys begin to run.

To reach their perch, the boys must climb a steel ladder up the side of a tenement building to the ledge of its steep roof, holding on with fingers and feet to keep from sliding off. From there they have a magnificent view of the city—its great bridges, buildings, landmarks, and monuments. They also have a clear view of the young bearded rabbi and his attractive young wife. The wife’s head is shaved, for religious reasons, but this also allows her a great measure...

(The entire section is 539 words.)