Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 803
The story’s point of view shifts often and sometimes abruptly, ranging from first-person plural (revealed to be the founding kibbutzniks, as opposed to latecomers or later generations) to the interior consciousness (without quotation marks) of Galila, Damkov, the jackal cub, and Sashka. It also ranges from third-person descriptions of conversations...
(The entire section contains 803 words.)
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The story’s point of view shifts often and sometimes abruptly, ranging from first-person plural (revealed to be the founding kibbutzniks, as opposed to latecomers or later generations) to the interior consciousness (without quotation marks) of Galila, Damkov, the jackal cub, and Sashka. It also ranges from third-person descriptions of conversations to a mysterious second-person voice in the reporting of Damkov’s apocalyptic flood daydream.
This shifting helps convey the hidden connections among persons and polarities, the conjunction of all things within one land in a story whose Hebrew title, “Artsot hatan,” is literally “the jackal’s lands.” Along with symbolism, the pervasive figure of speech personification suggests cumulatively, as well as in individual instances, covert ties among apparent divergences, even including, as the narrator points out repeatedly, the animate and inanimate worlds.
If the jackals symbolize the surrounding “foe,” the jackal cub symbolizes Galila, who like the cub warily approaches the bait—artists’ supplies—in Damkov’s quarters but is caught. As the cub licks its steel trap, so Galila finally fawns on Damkov, who in repeated metal imagery—including his own metalworking—is associated with the steel trap and the lock for Tanya, which has significant Freudian symbolism.
Galila, whose Hebrew name literally means “ring,” “circuit,” or “territory,” is captured by the lure of gifts from Damkov, whose Hebrew forename, Matityahu, means “gift of God.” Ironically, like other first-generation pioneers, Sashka is said to have been “forged” in fury, longing, and dedication to establishing the kibbutz, the metaphor equating him to Damkov in the latter’s metalworking and the recurrent imagery associating Damkov with heat. The recurrent polarity of heat versus cold is initiated in the story’s opening paragraphs, as a blast of cool sea wind, in a sexually suggestive metaphor, “pierces” the massive, dense sirocco wind.
Abundant twists and ironies of plot help express the idea of a concealed “current,” a repeated word in the story, connecting antipodes. For example, early in the story is a description of Sashka as having “fatherly assurance,” which seems to apply to him both as a founding kibbutznik and as an actual father. A little later comes the narrative feint of identifying Galila as the daughter of Sashka and Tanya. In the third section, Damkov and Tanya converse in the distanced tone of kibbutz colleagues rather than as former lovers, including Tanya’s complaint about Damkov not having fixed her lock. In the fifth section, Galila, identified as Sashka’s daughter, thinks gratefully to herself that Damkov has no children because he is ugly and not one of her circle.
Also, when Galila readies to leave because of Damkov’s reference to the wickedness of her mother, Damkov calls her as “daughter,” which appears to be the address of an elder to a youth rather than a literal assertion of paternity. While Damkov is responding to Galila’s upset at the sexual overtones of his description of horse breeding, Damkov’s voice is described as almost fatherly. Later in the story, Galila and Damkov refer to opposites in the word “father” when she says that her father will kill Damkov and Damkov replies that her father will take care of her from now on. Additionally, though Damkov’s room and his ugly appearance are referred to as “sterile,” his first work was horse breeding, and he has been, in some sense, more fertile than Sashka, in an example of one of the story’s polarities, between sterile and fertile.
Both opposition and reversals may be seen in the forenames of the main characters. Ironically, the pioneers most committed to the kibbutz and the state of Israel, Sashka and Tanya, have retained their European forenames. In contrast, Matityahu and Galila, representing latecomers and the later generation, have adopted or been given Hebrew forenames, appropriate to the Holy Land of the Bible.
Galila is partly drawn to the Europe-New World side of the polarity between what Amos Oz calls “Asia” (including the Middle East) and the West (Europe and the Americas), regarding her attraction to the painters’ supplies. Damkov, with his offer of gifts to Galila from South America (coffee and painting equipment) and the United States (cigarettes from Virginia), as well as his European background, desires to take his daughter, so much an opposite to him, and flee with her to live with his cousin Leon in the New World, which Damkov considers a world away from the harsh land of the Bible and society of the kibbutz.
However, the eternal cycle of oppositions detailed in the short story’s brief final section—sunset versus sunrise, heat versus cold, dry versus wet, summer versus winter—suggests that escape is not possible. What remains is the continual striving in life, embodied in the very etymology of the name “Israel”—which means “man who saw God.”