Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

One of the major themes in St. Urbain’s Horseman is the hero-victim antithesis which applies not only to the main character, Jake Hersh, but also to the experience of the Jews. The book is filled with references to that Jewish experience: to the concentration camps of the Nazis, to Dr. Josef Mengele, to Nazis in South America, and to the Israeli-Egyptian War. Just as Jake’s fears of victimization are allayed, so, too, the Israelis are victorious at the end of the novel and the principle of heroism remains alive in Joey Hersh.

A secondary theme is the price of success. The glimpses given of Jake and Luke struggling for success are very attractive. They are filled with life and hope. Yet the successful Luke seems to have lost all of his idealism, and Jake has all the money he needs but is completely idle. Even Duddy Kravitz, now a millionaire, has lost the manic energy that drove him to success. There is, perhaps, some suggestion of change at the end when Jake has managed to get rid of his money and is reunited with Luke.