Themes

Themes

Evident in the superhero they create, escape is an important theme in Joe and Sammy's lives, and thus for the novel. Escape has the power to save and enchant but is simultaneously a leaving and an arriving, the former a thing of sadness, the latter, one of joy. It seems though, that for the better part of the novel, Joe understands only the former. He is trained in the art of the escape, an ability that he will use throughout his life, starting when as a young man he performs a real-life, death defying escape, by getting smuggled out of Prague before the Nazis have a chance to send him to a concentration camp. Joe's escape happens because of his magic—the slights of hand and feats of wonder that he is able to call forth at will—and faith, for it is in the casket of a religious figure, the Golem, that Joe makes his passage. His escape, like his magic, his artwork and the religion that created the story of the Golem, is a thing of beauty with an aesthetic value that goes beyond the physical and emotional benefits.

The idea of escape in this novel involves physical escape from dangerous situations, as Joe finds out, but it also includes the more intangible kinds of escape, like the kind Joe attempts when he flees into the army when his younger brother Thomas is killed. This "escape" seems to be a misguided one, for he leaves behind Sammy and Rosa—who has not had the chance to tell him that he is about to be a father—to try and find a way to escape the guilt that he feels over his own survival and his impotence in trying to save his family from destruction. His despair results from his understanding of escape only as a leaving behind, and not how it requires a new sense of self that can cope with the grief and create a new life. As a result, he unwittingly leaves behind the nascent family that he does have the power to protect and encourage in an attempt to avenge the one that he only has the power to protect through memory. His new family grows despite his absence, though in an awkward way; Sammy marries Rosa so she will not have to raise the child alone, and together they move to the suburbs of Long Island, where their participation in the Levittown phenomenon masks the skewed nature of their family unit.

An integral part of the American dream seems to be the family, and throughout the novel, this need for family is an important theme, expressed by all of the main characters. The family units that are...

(The entire section is 993 words.)