Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

*New York City

*New York City. Largest city in the United States and the first destination for most of its European immigrants during the early twentieth century. In perhaps no other city, even Israel’s Tel Aviv, could Isaac Bashevis Singer have so keenly observed post-Holocaust Jewish psychology. As his fictional Polish immigrant Herman Broder moves about New York City, making his living ghostwriting books and lectures for a rich rabbi, he mingles with Jews of several economic strata and varying political opinions and religious practices. In this microcosm of world Jewishness, the effects of the Holocaust may be observed everywhere. Some survivors keep the religious law, while others despise it. Broder’s mistress hates God because of her experiences in the German death camps. Others, like her own mother, love God all the more because of what she has suffered. Broder’s own brain is still stocked with the lore of the Jewish Diaspora and Hebraic learning, now useful to him only because of the types of books he writes.

Perhaps it is only in post-Holocaust New York that a man such as Broder could so easily fall into the predicament he soon faces. After he marries the servant who saved his life in Poland, his first wife, Tamar, whom he had believed lost in the camps, reappears. As if two wives, after the secular law, were not enough, his mistress, Masha, then tricks him into marrying her according to Jewish law.

Singer wrote his novels initially in Yiddish, the language in which he felt most artistically comfortable, though his largest...

(The entire section is 647 words.)