Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Grocery store

Grocery store. Morris Bober’s family store in Manhattan. As an economic and social barrier, the store resembles a bit of European ghetto transported to New York, though it could be located in any large city in which European refugees gather. Having escaped Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in Germany, Morris has nevertheless contrived a prison of his own making, one which threatens to kill the spirit of his wife, Ida, and his daughter, Helen. Poverty ceaselessly grinds them down. Every morning at 5:30 a.m. Morris crawls out of bed to give the “Polish woman” her three-cent roll, even though she threatens to spit out anti-Semitic insults at him. For hours thereafter, no customer is likely to come into the store. Most of his customers have deserted him for “the German,” who has opened a fancy delicatessen around the corner. When the German becomes ill, his business is bought and refurbished by Norwegians—more Nordic types—and Morris’s misery continues. At the end of the day, the cash register seldom holds enough money to pay the day’s expenses. Only Helen’s paycheck as a secretary keeps the family going.

In this scene of suffering, the street person Frank Alpine makes his appearance. In an apparent example of gross black comedy, Morris’s store is the one that Frank and a companion choose to rob. After being bumped on the head, Morris fails to recognize Frank in the holdup. However, something about the store...

(The entire section is 578 words.)