Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The narrative technique of this story, as in all the Tevye stories, is that of the first-person, dramatic monologue. In using this technique, Aleichem implies the existence of a certain distance, emotional and temporal, between the events recounted and the present mind-set of Tevye, narrator of these events. The effect is that of a measure of objectivity and aesthetic organization. In “Hodel,” Tevye’s relatively cool, unemotional, and cheerful posture is maintained until the tearful moment at the railroad station; the heightened emotionalism at this point furnishes the motive for the story’s closing while underscoring the lasting emotional impact that these events have had on Tevye.

“Hodel” also demonstrates some of the devices of humor and comedy that have made the Tevye stories—regardless of their ominous message concerning the disintegration and downfall of a Jewish way of life—among the most popular works by this author.

Particularly notable are the comic effects of Tevye’s narrative style. Tevye tells his story in a torrent of words interspersed with references and allusions to traditional Jewish sources, particularly the Bible, to lend credence to his views. Tevye thus imitates the manner of a Talmudic scholar’s discourse, where every assertion is supported with scriptural citations. Tevye’s accounts, however, do not involve study but rather his day-to-day affairs. Comical juxtapositions are thereby established...

(The entire section is 402 words.)