Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 361
The primary protagonist of Bernard Malamud's Angel Levine is Manischevitz, a fifty-one-year-old tailor who recently lost his business to a fire resulting from an exploding container of cleaning fluid. This occurred shortly after the war-related death of his only son and the desertion of his daughter upon her marriage to a man of insufficient financial means. These losses and the corresponding harshness of life conditions in post-war New York cripple the health of Manischevitz and his wife, Fanny, who is essentially bed-ridden. Due to chronic pain, Manischevitz himself is able to work only a few hours each day, rendering the notion of earning a living impossible. As a Jewish man in crisis, Manischevitz appeals to God, asking first for an explanation of his devastating circumstances, and then finally for mere relief.
This appeal is answered in the form of colored man appearing in Manischevitz's front room, sitting calmly reading a newspaper as if the most natural thing in the world. This man identifies himself as Alexander Levine, a fellow Jew recently disincarnated into an angel. Levine claims he was sent by God to provide the relief Manischevitz requested, though it is imperative that Manischevitz exhibit faith by accepting his help. Manischevitz does the opposite. Rather than accept Levine's offer of help, he refuses it, expressing suspicion that Levine is not at all what he says to be—neither a Jew nor an angel—but rather a con-man out to exploit the desperate nature of Manischevitz's condition. Levine does not argue or attempt to convince Manischevitz otherwise, saying simply that he can be found in Harlem should the tailor change his mind.
Though Manischevitz is reluctant to accept the help of this colored man—wondering why God would not send a white man to help—he nonetheless seeks Levine in Harlem after his own health and that of his wife improve after the colored man's visit. In the end, Manischevitz' chooses to accept Levine's offer of help, and health is fully restored to the tailor and wife. This confirms that Levine was indeed who and what he claimed to be, a colored, Jewish angel sent by God in answer to Manischevitz's prayers.