Analysis of "The Jewbird" Essay

1025 Words Apr 26th, 2008 5 Pages
In “Jewbird,” Bernard Malamud skillfully uses three elements—theme, characters, and conflict to show the issues surrounding personal identity and assimilation among American Jews. The dominant themes in this short story are the human capacity to foster hatred towards those who are different in the form of anti-Semitism, and the conflict that exists between Jews who have assimilated into American culture and those who have not relinquished their Jewish identity. Humor and irony can be found throughout the story to define the characters and the conflict that exists between the protagonist Schwartz and the dominant antagonist Harry Cohen.
Anti-Semitism, assimilation, and personal identity comprise the story of a talking crow which lands
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It is ironic that Schwartz, who is displaced and constantly pursued by anti-Semitism, lands smack in the home of a Jewish anti-Semite. This is where the conflict begins. Schwartz has established himself in the Cohen home, liked by Edie and Maurie, in spite of Mr. Cohen’s disapproval, “Mr. Cohen, why do you hate me so much?” asked the bird. “What did I do to you?” “Because you’re an A-number-one trouble maker, that’s why. What’s more, whoever heard of a Jewbird? Now scat or it’s open war” (326). Schwartz has actually caused no trouble. He has tutored, played dominoes, and read to Maurie helping to raise his grades in school and, therefore, Cohen’s status. The trouble that Cohen refers to is the internal conflict he is having with himself. Schwartz is a daily reminder of what Cohen wishes to leave behind as he perceives himself to be completely assimilated. The final straw is the death of Cohen’s mother. She is his last connection to his past Jewish culture. Cohen vents rage and perhaps (Jewish) guilt about being so comfortably situated in American culture when there are Jews suffering. He must completely rid himself of all that reminds him of his Jewish roots, “Cohen, enraged, waited until Edie had taken the boy to his violin lesson, then openly attacked the bird” (327). This attack is brutal and the “broken-hearted bird” is once again fleeing anti-Semitism.
The story

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