What are the main ideas that come up in the beginning of the book "A Tale of Love and Darkness"?

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The main idea in the beginning of the book is Oz's alienation. He feels distanced from the rest of the world and even from the rest of his own country, Palestine at that time, where he lives during the British Mandate. He feels that the rest of the world does not want Jews, so they traveled to Palestine, where they are also not wanted.

Oz describes his upbringing by two intellectual Russian-speaking parents who live in a dark apartment that has been carved out of a hill. Surrounded by this "melancholy neighbor," as Oz describes the hill, he feels shut out not only from the cultured part of Jerusalem but also from the rest of Israel and from what he calls "theworldatlarge." When agricultural workers bring their produce to Jerusalem, he yearns to go with them and experience their sense of bravery and confidence. He believes that life with them would be like "a new song," and that by joining them and their pioneering movement, he would really belong in a way he doesn't while living with his parents. Oz conveys a sense of dislocation because his community of intellectual Jews does not feel as though they belong in a land in which physical labor and strength are celebrated. 

Natalie Saaris eNotes educator| Certified Educator

At the beginning of this novel, Oz describes what it's like to grow up between cultures. He lives in Israel yet identifies with European intellectual culture, particularly Russian novelists like Tolstoy and Chekhov. His parents speak many languages yet only teach Oz Hebrew, presumably because they want to shelter him from the "wonderful, murderous continent" of Europe. The big idea to be had here is where Oz and his family fit in. They admire elite intellectual culture yet are themselves rather poor. Russian literature resonates with their own spirit, yet they also want to distance themselves from it and establish a new identity in Israel. 

The question of identity will be one that continues to course through this novel as Oz struggles to understand who he is. His observations of his family and their relationship to the world will come together as he realizes the influence of history, geography, and politics on his life and future.

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A Tale of Love and Darkness

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