Style and Technique
One of the major devices of The Spinoza of Market Street is the placement of the main characters in a way that dramatizes their condition. Fischelson lives in a room high above the street, cut off from its turmoil, and Black Dobbe lives in a room cut off from sunlight. Fischelson lives between the sky and the earth, descending to the latter only once a week to buy his food, preferring to look at the former through his telescope. The light of vision, of intellectual insight, comes through his window, as it were. Black Dobbe has no window, no intellectual light, and she spends most of her time down in the street, struggling to make a living, her feet firmly on the earth. Fischelson’s room, however, is the more important of the two rooms in the end, for it does more than embody isolation. It helps to highlight the fact that man is neither a beast (as the events in the street below seem to assume) nor divine (as the events in the night sky seem to suggest to the mind), but in between. Fischelson’s room is where the two extremes meet, bringing new life to the philosopher and a sense of value and meaning to the ignorant peddler. Viewed as a stage, Fischelson’s room is where the two components of human destiny—the need to eat and feel and the need to envision life’s meaning—play out their importance to each other.