The First Seven Years

by Bernard Malamud

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How does Feld view Miriam and Max in Bernard Malamud's "The First Seven Years"?

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Bernard Malamud's short story "The First Seven Years,"  is about a middle-aged Jewish man named Feld who must come to grips with his daughter Miriam's independence. Feld wishes for his daughter to get a college education, which Miriam does not want to pursue. Failing that, he wants her to date and possibly marry a young man named Max.

Malamud reveals Feld's attitude toward Max in the story's first paragraph:

Neither the shifting white blur outside nor the sudden deep remembrance of the snowy Polish village where he had wasted his youth could turn his thoughts from Max the college boy (a constant visitor in his mind since early that morning when Feld saw him trudging through the snowdrifts on his way to school), whom he so much respected because of the sacrifices he had made throughout the years—in winter or direst heat—to further his education.

Obviously, Feld feels a certain admiration toward Max. Like himself, Max knows the value of a good education. Feld believes he would be a good match for his daughter Miriam, and a good provider.

We see Feld's thoughts about Miriam a little later, when he thinks about trying to set the two up on a date:

Or suppose Miriam, who harped so often on independence, blew up in anger and shouted at him for his meddling?

Feld is showing some frustration with his daughter over her independent nature, and it is apparent that he is also frustrating her with his attempts to influence her behavior. But Feld also has a certain respect for his daughter, or he wouldn't be worried about her reaction. 

In the end, Feld's judgment will be proven wrong, as Max and Miriam turn out to be uninterested in each other. His attitude toward Miriam changes to one of acceptance when he allows his assistant Sobel, a man he thinks is beneath her, to pursue a relationship with her. 


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