The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

The two major characters are Solomon Gursky and Moses Berger, although many other prominent characters have a significant role in this family chronicle. Solomon is an intriguing and elusive character. He dominates his brothers without really trying. When Morrie becomes proud of his ability as a cabinetmaker, Solomon borrows his tools to make a far superior cabinet as a gift for a lady. In addition, he is not interested in the accumulation of money that drives Bernard. He is interested in relationships with beautiful and intelligent women and causes such as Israel and the fate of the Jews.

Moses Berger is a fascinating character in his failures and his ambitions. He is an alcoholic primarily because of the problem with his father, and he never overcomes that difficulty. He does have a sympathy and affection for those who, like him, are out of the mainstream. He lives in a house in the north of Canada and has a close relationship with the down-and-out characters in the local bar and with the aloof Henry Gursky. He is a man seeking redemption for his failures and his past through his search for Solomon Gursky.

Bernard Gursky is a hilarious character, with his naked greed and his pretensions to a high position in Canadian and American society. The name he acquires, “Mr. Bernard,” suggests something of these pretensions. He is ever alert to increase his fame and stature while diminishing everyone near him. Morrie is unable to find a place for himself under the shadow of his oppressive younger brother. Richler takes savage pleasure in portraying this monster, especially in the annual birthday parties that are dedicated to the homage of “Mr. Bernard.”