(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Sabbath’s Theater is a story about a man at the end of his rope, a man for whom life is a punishment. He is shown in the last stages of that life, when he has to decide whether he will continue to live or whether he should commit suicide. Morris (Mickey) Sabbath is a sixty-four-year-old former puppeteer and a sexual deviant consumed by lust. His life revolves around one aberrant sexual exploit after another. In the 1950’s, he runs a puppet theater opposite the gates of Columbia University in New York City. He uses his fingers as puppets and as a vehicle for fondling young girls in his audience. He is caught, and an indecency charge is filed against him. Sometime soon after, his first wife Nikki disappears without a trace. Disconsolate, he leaves New York with his lover Roseanna for the quiet and simplicity of a small Massachusetts town.

Sabbath, however, is incapable of leading a simple life. Very quickly, he finds a way to complicate it. Although he secures a job directing theater at a local college, his career is cut short when he is forced to resign over a scandal with a coed. During these years in Massachusetts, Roseanna, now his wife, becomes an alcoholic. Living with Sabbath is too much for her. He destroys her sense of well-being and confidence and makes her life a hell. She becomes the target of his frustration and despair. Even when she is recovering, he goads her mercilessly.

When he finds his home life no longer appealing, Sabbath becomes involved in an adulterous affair with an exotic and powerful Croatian American woman,...

(The entire section is 641 words.)