Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Reuven Harish

Reuven Harish (originally Harismann), the most complex figure in the book, who seems to assume many different character roles. This diversity may be governed by the intellectual distance that separates him from the simpler, earthier image of most of the other characters. He is not only a poet but also a principal teacher responsible for the educational program within the kibbutz. A second aspect of Harish’s existence is his function as guide for tourists who visit Kibbutz Metsudat Ram. Through Harish, the novel reveals the totality not only of the social and material foundations of kibbutz life but also of its inner emotional experiences. Having lost his wife to an urbane lover (and cousin) who, after a brief visit to Kibbutz Metsudat Ram, took her back to the material comfort and moral decadence of postwar Germany, Harish accepts the modest responsibility of caring for his two children. Although he is hurt by the loss of his wife, he finds solace and carnal satisfaction, but no real emotional security, in the plain person and austere home environment of Bronka Berger, the wife of a rough-hewn truck driver, with whom he shares secret hours.

Noga Harish

Noga Harish, also called Stella Maris (for her maternal grandmother) and Turquoise, the sixteen-year-old daughter of Reuven. Because of her lithe body and skills as a dancer, Noga is chosen to play the part of the fertile vine in an important annual kibbutz ceremonial celebration. There are at least two mysterious sides to young Noga. One suggests a reflection in her of the lascivious charms of her mother, who caused scandal in the kibbutz by abandoning her husband and two children to run off with another man. The other is a childlike image that is apparent in the first stage of her relationship with truck driver Ezra Berger, who does small favors for her. This latter image disappears as Ezra not only becomes her lover but also causes her to become pregnant. Eventually, after taunting, then shunning, her original suitor, the young Rami Rominov, Noga returns not to their love but to the symbol of kibbutz community continuity that their union seems to represent.

Ezra Berger

Ezra Berger, a truck...

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The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

Although Elsewhere, Perhaps is set in an Israeli kibbutz and its characters are undeniably Jewish, the reader is most struck by their overwhelming humanity. With affectionate, careful strokes, Amos Oz has created a gallery of persons who are recognizable both in their individual ways and their common traits. Even the minor characters are well-rounded and believable because their traits and personalities are both distinctive yet universal.

In writing his novel, Oz has brought the reader into the circle of the kibbutz; it is a circle as close and intimate as a family, and in a sense, it is a family. The unnamed narrator, obviously a member of Metsudat Ram, presents not only direct descriptions of actions but also the commentary on those actions by the kibbutz members. In this fashion the same event will be examined from several different perspectives, and this gives additional resonance and vividness to even the most mundane activities. In this sense, as the narrator remarks, gossip is not mere talk, but “our collaborator in this story.”

Reuven Harish is described by Oz as “a man of learning and at the same time a peasant, a man whose life has been enriched by of our most remarkable men.” About the age of fifty, Reuven is a dedicated teacher, writer, and father. He is basically direct and honest, and his illicit relationship with Bronka Berger stems primarily from loneliness and grief over the desertion of his own wife, rather than passion or lust. Yet Reuven is acutely aware that in securing solace for himself, he has wronged Ezra Berger, and his attempts to resolve this dilemma add complexity and realism to his character.

Reuven’s relationship with his children changes through the course of the novel. Noga Harish experiences the changes, both painful and joyous, of developing womanhood and grows...

(The entire section is 764 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Batzdorff, S.M. Review in Library Journal. XCVIII (September 1, 1973), p. 2464.

Sheppard, R.Z. “Independent States of Mind: In New York, International P.E.N. Generates Heat and Light,” in Time. CXXVII (January 27, 1986), p. 75.

Wood, Michael. Review in The New York Review of Books. XXI (February 7, 1974), p. 12.