The Last of the Just

by André Schwarz-Bart

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

In the book The Last of the Just, author Andre Schwarz-Bart unearths an archaic practice from centuries ago about the Just Men. This is ancient practice during which thirty-six men are chosen to be receptacles or vessels. These mortal men become:

the hearts of the world multiplied, and into them, as into one receptacle, pour all our griefs.

The author argues that if not for the Just Men, humankind would be unable to exist. The Just Men's purpose is to help carry the burden of the fact that humans can be so terribly cruel to each other. The existence of The Just Men has been necessary over time due to the extreme persecution of Jewish people in the past. We learn that Jews have been reviled and abused for hundreds of years; some have been killed in pogroms or during the Inquisition, while others were merely banished from certain countries. World War II changed everything.

One of the main themes of the book is that we often cannot judge someone by appearance alone; Ernie— the main character of book—is an unlikely hero, yet we find out that he is the last of the Just Men. Another theme is that it can be a cold and lonely world and that violence between people will always be present. Finally, the Jewish people are remarkably resilient and adaptable.

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