The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Leon Uris says of his characters, “All the cliche Jewish characters who have cluttered up our American fiction . . . have been left where they rightfully belong, on the cutting-room floor.” “Exodus,” he continues, “is about fighting people, people who do not apologize either for being born Jews or the right to live in human dignity.” Indeed, the characters are not cliche Jewish types. They are, however, stock characters from melodrama. The principals are unwaveringly heroic. They have no moments of self-doubt, no fear of defeat, no gray areas of mixed good and bad traits, no moral dilemmas. The Jews are all good, loyal, honest, intelligent, brave, devoted, generous, and self-sacrificing. They are also clever and intrepid soldiers who outwit the British and Arabs, who invent lethal weapons and original strategies which overcome the forces and arms of their enemies. They place the good of Israel ahead of any personal considerations or ambitions.

Ari and Jordana most clearly personify these characteristics: Both repress their emotions and dedicate themselves to fighting. Their foils are the people they love. Jordana’s beloved David Ben Ami is a scholar and an archaeologist whose delight is in research and study. He is caught up in the needs of Israel and serves in the Haganah; he is not, however, a soldier with the icy control of Jordana or Ari. His love for Jerusalem leads him into a rash maneuver which is fatal. Kitty, beloved of Ari, shrinks from battles, bloodshed,...

(The entire section is 613 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Barak Ben Canaan

Barak Ben Canaan, also called Jossi Rabinsky, one of the pioneer settlers and political leaders in Palestine. Although he stands more than six feet tall and has bright red hair, he is a gentle giant with a quiet, meditative personality. Growing up Jewish in a Russian ghetto, he quickly learns how to defend himself physically, but he prefers to exercise nonviolent methods whenever possible. His restraint and wisdom become powerful tools that help him negotiate with the United States for Israel’s statehood and, later, with individual countries for arms.


Akiva, also called Yakov Rabinsky, Barak’s younger brother, another pioneer settler and military leader in Palestine. Although considerably smaller than Barak physically, Akiva is easily stirred and fights at the slightest provocation. He even carries stones in his pockets to throw at people who threaten him. When Simon Rabinsky, his father, is killed in a riot, Akiva stabs to death the man he believes is personally responsible. Barak arrives too late to prevent the murder, but he is observed at the scene and is accused of the crime. The brothers flee Russia together and walk across the continent to Palestine. As other Jewish settlers arrive, Barak and Akiva organize them into communal kibbutzim. Barak barters with the Arabs for land while Akiva develops a strike force called the Guardsmen. Akiva’s tendency toward violence eventually results in a fifteen-year silence between the two brothers, and only when Akiva is about to be hanged by British soldiers does Barak attempt to help him.

Ari Ben Canaan

Ari Ben Canaan, a Palmach military leader. Like his father, Barak, Ari is a handsome man more than six feet tall. Cunning and resourceful, he serves as an invaluable leader for the Jewish secret army, the Palmach, by smuggling refugees and weapons into Palestine in addition to planning and instituting brilliant military strategies. As a boy, he is taught by his father how to defend himself by using a bullwhip; he is also told never to use the weapon in anger or revenge but only in defense. Ari follows that advice throughout his life, as evidenced by his joining the Palmach, the Jewish army, rather than the Guardsmen, his uncle’s terrorist group. He becomes so dedicated to his work, however, that he ignores his emotions and refuses to acknowledge his grief for his dead friends or to proclaim his love for Kitty...

(The entire section is 1008 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Some of the novel's significant characters are paired, with one character drawing the other away from a distorting or damaging degree of...

(The entire section is 153 words.)