Do you think that Leo is disappointed with Lily because she seems older than he expected, because her questions disturb him, or because of something else?

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missflusk14 | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

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The central character in Bernard Malamud's story, "The Magic Barrel,"  is a man named Leo Finkle. Leo has spent the past six years of his life studying to be a rabbi, and- two months before he is ordained- he decided that it is time to marry. So, Piyne Salzman- the marraige broker- attempts to set Leo up with a high school teacher named Lily. Though Leo had expressed some trepidation in meeting her at first, he soon found Lily to be, "petite and not unpretty, had on something signifying the approach of spring. She was au courant, animatedly, with all sorts of subjects, and he weighed her words and found her surprisingly sound." Generally, he was impressed with her, and continued to be- until she asked him about his work.

It is a relatively standard practise- upon meeting someone and hearing their profession- to ask a person what it was that made them want to pursue a particular feild. This is especially true upon meeting someone who's path has brought them to teaching their religion. Lily, in a show of genuine interest, ask Leo, "When did you become enamored of God?" Leo then becomes enraged- seemingly at her age, her line of questioning, and Salzman's trickery. However, upon a closer reading of the text as a whole, we realize that it is none of these things that so disturb Leo. We learn that it is something within himself that he is disappointed with, something that is embodied in the years that he wasted pursuing a career that means nothing to him, the decision to go to a marraige broker to find a wife that also means nothing. He has found within himself neither a love for God, nor a woman, nor even himself. And it is this lack of love in Leo's life that ultimately disappoints him- not Lily.

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