The stories collected in Zlateh the Goat reveal Singer's fondness for his native Poland, particularly the villages inside the "Pale of Settlement," where Jews once lived in considerable numbers. Although life was often hard and many of the villagers were poor, Singer shows the brighter side of life as well. He is especially gifted in blending fantasy and reality, or imagination and the concrete perceptions of actual places, characters, and events. His stories reflect, by turn, reason and emotion, sense and sentiment, playfulness and maturity. They expand the reader's awareness of a different culture with its distinctive ways of thinking, feeling, and believing.
Singer writes about children and adults, wise people and fools, the present world and worlds long since disappeared. His characters display tendencies that are universal, despite their strange names and the faraway settings. Lazy persons like Atzel in "Fool's Paradise," kindhearted people like Aaron in the title story, or brave youngsters like David in "The Devil's Trick," are part of every reader's experience. Singer places these characters in situations that test their mettle, and most of the time they emerge a little wiser—and more loving—for their experiences. Singer expressed his intention in writing these stories in the foreword: "I hope that when the readers of these stories become men and women they will love not only their own children but all good children everywhere."
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