In the opening scene of Andorra, Barblin is whitewashing her father’s house in preparation for Saint George’s Day. Interrupted by an Andorran soldier who is attracted to her, she tries to ward him off by announcing that she is engaged. Father Benedict enters, and the conversation that ensues among the soldier, the priest, and Barblin reveals that an invasion by the anti-Semitic Blacks from across the border is imminent.
Next, the square of Andorra is seen. The carpenter and Can, the teacher, sitting outside the inn, haggle over the fee for an apprenticeship for the teacher’s foster son Andri, thought to be a Jew saved by the teacher from the Blacks. The carpenter, sensing Andri’s keen interest in carpentry and the teacher’s anxiety about finding a suitable position for his son, demands an exorbitant sum and suggests that Andri become a stockbroker, something that is, after all, “in his blood.” The teacher, determined to scrape together the money Andri needs, is joined by the innkeeper, who proceeds to exploit Can’s predicament by offering to buy his land.
During most of scene 1, the kitchen boy Andri is seen feeding his tips into the jukebox located on the forestage. A carefree youth, he is exuberant about his secret engagement to Barblin and the prospect of becoming a carpenter. Soon thereafter, however, the soldier Peider brags about his own bravery, trips Andri, and calls him a cowardly Jew.
Scene 2 takes place on the threshold outside Barblin’s room. Her fiancé Andri wonders aloud whether it is true that he is different from everyone else. He feels no different but is accused of having no feelings and of being lecherous, greedy, and cowardly. In the next scene, Andri and Fedri, another carpentry apprentice, are in the carpenter’s shop, each with a finished chair. The carpenter, intent upon finding fault with Andri’s workmanship, pulls all four legs out of Fedri’s chair, throws the debris at Andri’s feet, and chastises him for his alleged failure to mortise his first chair, knowing all the while that it is Fedri’s chair he is destroying. Fedri watches silently as Andri is given a new job, supposedly more suitable for a Jew: that of a salesman.
Shortly thereafter, Andri learns from the doctor that Can, his father, now a heavy-drinking cynic, was once a young man with high ideals. Nicknamed the Bull, he was known to tear up schoolbooks that contained lies. The doctor, well-traveled but a failure in his profession, launches into a vicious, bitter attack on the Jews of the world, ignorant of Andri’s Jewish identity. Wherever he went, he laments, he found Jews already there, occupying all the university chairs. Informed that Andri is a Jew, he quickly adds: “I was joking—of course, they can’t take a joke. . . . Did anyone ever meet a Jew who could take a joke?”
At dinner, Andri reveals that Barblin and he have loved each other ever since they were children and have resolved to get married. Believing that they were brother and sister, they had contemplated poisoning themselves, until their mother assured them that Andri was adopted. Can, faced with the prospect of incest caused by his own duplicity, “rises like a prisoner upon whom sentence has been passed,” immediately and emphatically rejects Andri as a suitor, without giving any reason, and leaves the room to find solace in the inn. Barblin runs off, threatening to kill herself, her mother suspects that Can is jealous,...
(The entire section is 1422 words.)