Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The classic pieces of early literature—the Bible, Homer, Greek and Shakespearean tragedy—deal with heroes who are larger than life and who, whether they be good or evil, grapple with important philosophical and moral issues. The heroes of modern literature, by contrast, are swamped by the trivia of daily life. Getting through each day with a modicum of dignity is their task as much as wrestling with God, Fate, or mystery was that of the earlier heroes.

The difference in literary presentation is attributable to a host of cultural factors. Just as writing about Achilles’ or Hamlet’s laundry lists would have been incomprehensible to Homer or Shakespeare, so too would a story written today that presents a hero in the antique mode be dismissed by the sophisticated reader as hopelessly naïve and one-dimensional. Isaac Rosenfeld’s story is an attempt to cross the great divide between the archaic heroic vision and the modern mundane one. How could the romantic, semi-legendary figure of the ancient Israelite king be made comprehensible and relevant to the modern reader? What would result from a juxtaposition of the heroic mode and the quotidian? What would Solomon be like were he alive today or were modern readers transported, with their modern sensibility, to ancient times?

Rosenfeld’s Solomon moves in a world of telephones, newspapers, kosher markets, radio, stamp albums, pinochle, overtime pay. The biblical Solomon, or the historical...

(The entire section is 550 words.)