A Beggar in Jerusalem

by Elie Wiesel

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

The characters of A Beggar In Jerusalem are:

David ben Sarah: David is the first-person narrator of the novel. He often directs his rhetorical questions to the reader. In the book, David tells the story of his army friend Katriel, who did not survive the Six Day War. He tells Katriel's story because of his promise to the latter and his belief that Katriel's indomitable spirit lives on in him. Throughout the book, David uses madmen and beggars as allegorical figures to support his main theme: that the Jews have an important role as the heralds of mankind. In the story, David is attracted to Malka, Katriel's widow. Through her, he understands that love is a double-edged sword: it is as much a hindrance as it is a solution.

Katriel: Katriel is David's former army friend. In the book, Katriel is said to be missing in action (MIA). We get glimpses of Katriel's character from David's stories. In the book, David portrays Katriel as an honorable, self-sacrificing man. He and his wife Malka endure the loss of their son Sasha with courage and dignity. Katriel was a loving husband and father throughout all twenty years of his married life. In fact, his primary focus was his family. In the book, we learn that Katriel signs up to fight in the Six Day War because of his father's expectations. David admits that he envies Katriel's intrinsic ability to "magnify the human element in a world without humanity."

Malka: Malka is Katriel's widow. In the book, she shadows David until he finally sees her. Malka represents the perfect woman, one who is virtuous, powerful, and beautiful. To the beggars, she is the epitome of grace and beauty, a divine inspiration. Meanwhile, to Katriel, she is his long-suffering wife, one who patiently endures the vicissitudes of life without flinching. Both share a transcending love until they are parted by tragedy.

Moshe, Itzik, Shlomo, Zadok, Velvel, and Dan(the beggars): In the book, the beggars invite David into their inner circle. They accept his vulnerability and see him as someone who understands the "madness" of the Jew. This "madness" is defined as the ability of the Jew to transcend suffering with defiant laughter. Fittingly, the beggars christen Malka the queen of madmen and beggars.

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