Leon Uris performed extensive background research when writing all of his historical novels, and Exodus is no exception. He traveled all over Israel, covering about 12,000 miles, interviewed more than a thousand people, and read about three hundred books in preparation for writing the novel.
Exodus became a very popular work, selling great numbers of copies year after year. It was translated into dozens of languages, and although it was banned in the Soviet Union, it enjoyed great underground popularity there. Some early reviewers praised the work. Others called it a fabric of oversimplifications full of stereotypes. It has even been labeled a melodrama—that is, an unrealistic work with no ambiguity and no depth of characterization, in which the world is divided between characters who are exaggeratedly good and those who are exaggeratedly evil. Many critics especially criticize what they see as Uris’s portrayal of Israelis as good and Arabs as bad.
For all of its oversimplifications, Exodus rejects the idea that Jews are the only ones who can be depended on to help the Jews. Uris writes of non-Jews from America, France, and Cyprus helping the Jews in their successful attempt to establish a Jewish state. He also recognizes the contribution of many of the Druse in helping the Israelis. Early in the book, Ari repeatedly says that Americans have consciences, so it is not surprising that he asks Americans for help. Mark Parker is instrumental in gaining British permission for Exodus to sail, and Kitty helps the Jews throughout the book, in spite of her early anti-Semitic belief that all Jews are arrogant and aggressive like the Jewish doctors she worked with in America and in spite of the discomfort she initially feels in the presence of Jews. Kitty is a dynamic character who changes markedly over the course of the book.
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