Analysis

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 327

"Angel Levine" is a short story by American writer Bernard Malamud. The story centers on an elderly Jewish man in New York City named Manischevitz who suffers an injury that prevents him from working. His wife has been terminally ill for two years and is bedridden. The inability to work causes financial stress, but Manischevitz performs his duty as a loving husband and takes care of his wife. Manischevitz's story is an interpretation of Job's story in the Bible: a man whose faith is tested by God by allowing him to suffer financially and physically. Like Job, Manischevitz is clearly not very religious in the beginning of the story. His faith is cultivated during his time of suffering.

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The story also subtly examines the racial tension between Jewish citizens and African Americans in New York City during the late 20th century. This is illustrated by Manischevitz's initial reaction to Alexander Levine, the half-black angel supposedly sent to help restore Manischevitz's faith in God. Manischevitz is apprehensive about believing Levine due to the fact that he did not look like a Jewish person, and he even questions God about why a white-skinned Jewish angel was not sent instead. In the 1950s, when the original short story was written and published, New York City saw a massive influx of black migrants from the South. Many African Americans lived near traditionally Jewish ethnic enclaves (e.g. Brooklyn, Long Island City, Harlem). This caused tensions between some Jews and blacks.

However, in the end, Manischevitz restores his faith in Judaism and, more importantly, in humanity, when he finally accepts the fact that Alexander Levine is an angel sent by God to help him. The most memorable line in the entire story is, “Believe me, there are Jews everywhere.” This illustrates that Manischevitz re-learns a core concept in the Jewish faith: brotherhood. In fact, that brotherhood, in Malamud's philosophy, is not limited to the Jewish community but encompasses everyone in the world.

Style and Technique

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 131

Though it deals with purely imaginary events, Malamud tells his story in the straightforward manner of literary realism. The language and grammar are those appropriate to someone of Manischevitz’s background because, though the story is told in the third person, Manischevitz is clearly the center of consciousness, and the dialect in the story is his. This is an appropriate method, as it enables the reader to reach his own determination as to whether he is reading of an episode imagined by this broken old man or whether the event occurred as reported. In the final analysis, it makes little difference, as Malamud’s theme does not rely for its effectiveness on the “reality” of the situation so much as on the reader’s understanding of the humanizing quality of faith.

Bibliography

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 187

Abramson, Edward A. Bernard Malamud Revisited. New York: Twayne, 1993.

Astro, Richard, and Jackson J. Benson, eds. The Fiction of Bernard Malamud. Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, 1977.

Avery, Evelyn, ed. The Magic Worlds of Bernard Malamud. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2001.

Bloom, Harold, ed. Bernard Malamud. New York: Chelsea House, 2000.

Davis, Philip. Experimental Essays on the Novels of Bernard Malamud: Malamud’s People. Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 1995.

Field, Leslie A., and Joyce W. Field, eds. Bernard Malamud: A Collection of Critical Essays. Rev. ed. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1975.

Field, Leslie A., and Joyce W. Field, eds. Bernard Malamud and the Critics. New York: New York University Press, 1970.

Nisly, L. Lamar. Impossible to Say: Representing Religious Mystery in Fiction by Malamud, Percy, Ozick, and O’Connor. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2002.

Ochshorn, Kathleen. The Heart’s Essential Landscape: Bernard Malamud’s Hero. New York: Peter Lang, 1990.

Richman, Sidney. Bernard Malamud. Boston: Twayne, 1966.

Salzberg, Joel, ed. Critical Essays on Bernard Malamud. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1987.

Sío-Castiñeira, Begoña. The Short Stories of Bernard Malamud: In Search of Jewish Post-immigrant Identity. New York: Peter Lang, 1998.

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