The First Seven Years

by Bernard Malamud

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Why does Feld find Max appealing in "The First Seven Years"?

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Feld sees Max as the ideal husband for his daughter, Miriam. He's bright, hard-working, and seems to be going places in life. In particular, Feld is impressed by Max's devotion to study, although his bookishness should indicate his unsuitability for marrying Feld's daughter, who isn't on the same wavelength intellectually.

The problem here is one of wishful thinking. Feld is so dazzled by this intelligent young man that he fails to see that there's virtually no chance of his marrying Miriam. He's more impressed by Max than his daughter, and that's an insuperable barrier to marrying them off. The most damaging consequence of Feld's delusions is that he ends up alienating Sobel, who saved his business from ruin and has been a loyal, hard-working employee ever since.

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Max is so appealing to Feld because Feld sees Max as a means to an end. Basically, Feld sees Max as Miriam's ticket to a better life. Because his daughter refuses to attend college, Feld sees a potential romance between the two as a way for Miriam to improve her station in life.

Feld reasons that Max's own commitment to higher education may even inspire Miriam to pursue her own studies. If not, he imagines that marriage between the two will still be a positive development. Miriam will be married to a 'fine scholarly boy' instead of wasting her youth working in an office with 'loud-mouthed salesmen and illiterate shipping clerks.' So, Feld puts his plan into action. He tries to get Max to go out on a date with Miriam.

For his part, Max does take Miriam out on two dates; however, the relationship never really gets off the ground. Sadly, Feld had not bargained for the fact that Miriam and Max might be ill-suited for each other.


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In The First Seven Years, why was Feld impressed with Max?

Feld is impressed with Max because of Max's determination to educate himself.  Feld believes that an education is essential for happiness in life, because it provides a better and wealthier life than the one he has lived.  It isn't until the end that Feld realizes education is not the key to happiness, or the most important quality in a man.

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