Themes and Meanings

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Shosha is Singer’s Paradise Lost, an attempt to justify the ways of God to man. It is Paradise Lost written from the perspective of one who has seen two world wars and the Holocaust and who lives in the shadow of nuclear Armageddon. “If God is wisdom, how can there be foolishness? And if God is life, how can there be death?” asks Haiml Chentshiner. Shosha wonders why flies bite and why horses cannot live to be a hundred. “What can one do? How is one to live?” Dora asks. Singer’s reply is less confident than John Milton’s. In the final scene of the book, Haiml poses questions to Aaron as they sit in a small dark room. Haiml’s second wife opens the door and asks these symbols of wondering humanity why they sit without light. Haiml replies, “We’re waiting for an answer.”

If an answer exists, it has not yet been given. Meanwhile, what remains for man to do? For one thing, he must remember. “Let us say that a fly has fallen into a spiderweb and the spider has sucked her dry. This is a fact of the universe and such a fact cannot be forgotten,” Haiml states. Aaron writes about Jewish history: the false Messiahs of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the Maiden of Lublin of the nineteenth century. Writing for him is an act of memory. Shosha, too, is such an act. By summoning the sounds, smells, tastes, and sights of a vanished Warsaw, Singer preserves that vanished world. Shosha and Celia are...

(The entire section is 558 words.)