In St. Urbain’s Horseman, Mordecai Richler uses cinematic techniques as he weaves together a number of different plot strands and cuts from one character to another. The most important elements of this complex plot are the fate and struggle for success of the main character, Jacob “Jake” Hersh; Harry Stein’s past and his role as a contrast and antagonist to the main character; a brief and spotty life of Joseph “Joey” Hersh, the Horseman of the title; and Jake’s fascination with him. Many of the chapters juxtapose one character to another. This device is especially prominent in the contrasts between the well-to-do Jake Hersh and the poor Harry Stein. The Horseman, Joey, is used as a symbol or theme, and his presence is scattered throughout the book. The most important plot strand deals with Jake Hersh.
When the novel opens, Jake Hersh is awaiting trial in London on some unexplained sexual offense. The resolution of the trial is suspended until the end, while Jake’s earlier life and anxieties are traced. Jake is, for example, anxious about his career as a director, about the success of his friend Luke, about his wife, Nancy, and about Nazi war criminals and the Jews. He spends most of his time cutting out newspaper clippings of disasters. In flashbacks, there is a contrast between the younger, more confident Jake and the worried and idle Jake now apparent. He is worried that he will lose everything he has achieved and that the world will sink back into the barbarism of the 1940’s.
In contrast to Jake, Harry Stein is always active and in pursuit of any one of the many things denied him, such as...
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