Themes and Meanings

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Potok situates most of his novels within the context of American Jewish life in the first half of the twentieth century, and Orthodox Judaism is certainly a central focus in Davita’s Harp. Because Potok goes deeply into the particulars to locate what is universal in human experience, however, his readership is not restricted. Davita’s Harp is set against a background of Christianity as well as Judaism, and it also investigates political issues as Potok deals with what he considers to be the central social problem of the twentieth century: how people confront ideas that are different from their own.

Potok structures his novels carefully and tends to set up the central metaphor of each in an early scene. This time, the metaphor is the door harp, which plays gentle, sweet music. The harp has been a constant in Davita’s peripatetic life, yet it is a dynamic symbol. The harp is strong enough to accept outer influences: In fact, it becomes a haven for the bird of Uncle Jakob’s story, the bird that Davita liberates from Guernica, and eventually even Davita herself. Though the harp is solid and stationary, it becomes the means through which Davita can fly outside the limitations of time and space: to the Maine farmhouse to give her aborted graduation speech; to a reunion with her deceased father and uncle; and to a greater understanding and healing of spirit. The metaphor underscores the central theme in Davita’s...

(The entire section is 528 words.)


(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

The novel deals with a rich variety of themes. Among them are the role of the imagination as a source of strength (for the pioneer women...

(The entire section is 138 words.)