Aaron Greidinger, the protagonist of Isaac Bashevis Singer’s coming-of-age novel, is first presented as a young boy who becomes friends with Shosa, a neighbor girl of about the same age. They live on opposite sides of Krochmalna Street in Warsaw, Poland. Although they are soon separated by distance, religion, and discrimination, he retains his boyhood vision of her. Aaron later returns and marries her. While his friends wonder at what they see as a mismatched pair, Aaron’s perceptions are sharper than theirs. Their marriage cannot endure, however, because the social forces that tear him away from his homeland actually kill Shosha.
There are several ways to interpret the fascination that Shosha embodies for Aaron. Singer establishes a set of dichotomies that show the two characters as opposites: male and female, intellectual and simple, and later experienced and innocent. The physical division of the street also suggests an opposition. The division is exacerbated by his family’s forced removal to a different area. In this way, Shosha and her constant presence stands for stability, while his move is connected with the increasingly rapid, disruptive social change. When he returns to Krochmalna Street, he is relieved and heartened to find that she, and the childhood he recalls, are still there. This will tragically be lost in the winds of war, which will take her life.