A Wedding in Brownsville
This story is written by Isaac Bashevis Singer
The story revolves around its main character Dr Margolin, a Jewish who had migrated from Poland to the United States of America. The main idea of the story is about all the horrors the Jewish suffered at the hands of the Nazis during the heydays of Hitler. The story also elaborates the aftereffects of holocaust on those who survived to tell the tale. This story also gives vivid details of transformations the life of the Jewish has undergone in America which is their new home.
The story begins with character sketch of the main protagonist, i.e. Dr Margolin. After that, story proceeds to a wedding ceremony where Dr Margolin goes as a guest. At the ceremony, the merry banter among the guests veers towards all the horrors the Jews had underwent. Then there is a strange encounter between the main protagonist and his lady love of the past.
Stop and Think
Question 1: Who were the Senciminers?
Answer: Sencimine is a town in Poland. The town was destroyed by the Germans and as a result the Jewish of the town were forced to flee. Such people are called Senciminers.
Question 2: Why did Dr Margolin not particulary want his wife to accompany him to the wedding?
Answer: Dr Margolin’s wife Gretl did not want to attend a wedding ceremony of people she was not familiar with. Moreover, Sunday was the only day when she could spend some quality time with her husband and she did not want to spoil her Sunday. Dr Margolin did not want to force her wife to attend a ceremony against her will. That is why he did not want his wife to accompany him to the wedding.
Question 3: What is the Hippocratic Oath?
Answer: The Hippocratic Oath is the oath which doctors take when they begin their career. They take the oath to follow certain ethics while treating their patients.
Question 4: What topic does the merry banter at the wedding inevitably lead to?
Answer: The discussions at the wedding inevitably led to Dr Margolin’s childhood days. It also led to the story of his love interest when he was a young adult.
Question 5: Who was the woman that Dr Margolin suddenly encountered at the wedding?
Answer: The woman that Dr Margolin suddenly encountered at the wedding was Riva’s sister Raizel, his love interest when he was a young adult.
Question 6: What were the events that led to his confused state of mind?
Answer: The chance encounter with Raizel led to all the confusion. Earlier, Dr Margolin was sure that Raizel had died at the hands of the Nazis. But at the wedding ceremony, Raizel was standing in front of him, all flesh and blood.
Udnerstanding the Text
Question 1: What do you understand of Dr Margolin’s past? How does it affect his present life?
Answer: Dr Margolin was a child prodigy who could recite a whole tractate of Talmud by heart. He could recite whole passage of bible. He was a self taught person who learnt algebra and geometry by himself. As a doctor too he was successful. He was referred to as an illustrious boy during his childhood. People of Sencimine revered him because of his talents.
Question 2: What was Dr Margolin’s attitude towards his profession?
Answer: Dr Margolin followed all the ethics a doctor should follow. He even gave free medicines and hospital bed to the needy.
Question 3: What is Dr Margolin’s view of the kind of life the American Jewish community leads?
Answer: Dr Margolin did not have positive view about the kind of life the American Jewish community leads. He thought that they had forgotten their true Jewish identity and culture and were becoming pretentious and were aping the American culture.
Question 4: What are the personality traits that endeared Dr Margolin to others in his community?
Answer: Dr Margolin was very active in the affairs of the Jewish community. He was active member of various committees and clubs of the Jewish community and actively participated whenever the opportunity to strengthen the bonds with the community came. Moreover, he always had a helping attitude towards others. These traits endeared him to others in his community.
Question 5: Why do you think of Dr Margolin had the curious experience at the wedding hall?
Answer: Yes, I think so because he met the lady who was supposed to be dead a long ago. Anyone would be flummoxed at such encounter.
Question 6: Was the encounter with Raizel an illusion or was the carousing at the wedding hall illusory? Was Dr Margolin the victim of the accident and was his astral body hovering in the world of twilight?
Answer: It is difficult to answer. Looking from the surrealistic perspective it can be assumed that Dr Margolin was the victim of the accident and after his death his astral body was hovering in the world of twilight.
Talking About the Text
Question 1: Fiction often deals with human consciousness, rather than with the reality of existence.
Answer: It is true that fiction often deals with human consciousness rather than with the reality of existence. It is the non-reality part which makes a fiction truly engrossing and interesting. The point of conflict in this story comes at the juncture when imagination gives way to reality.
Question 2: The ways in which survivors of holocausts deal with life.
Answer: For survivors of holocausts it must be difficult to deal with life. Their tumultuous past always comes to haunt them. They may be dying a thousand deaths every day. The scars deep inside may not heal throughout their life.
Question 1: Surrealism was an artistic and literary movement in France between the two World Wars. Its basic idea is that automatic, illogical and uncontrolled associations of the mind represent a higher reality than the world of practical life and ordinary literature. Do you think this story could be loosely classified as surrealistic? What elements in this story would support the idea?
Answer: Yes, this story can be loosely classified as surrealistic. The entry of Raizel at the later part of the story supports this idea. Raizel was supposed to be dead yet she appears in front of Dr Margolin as a living person. This instance is followed by the wallet disappearing from Dr Margolin’s pocket and eventually his hallucinations about the accident he witnessed while on his way to the wedding venue.
Question 2: Comment on the technique used by the author to convey the gruesome realities of the war and its devastating effect on the psyche of human beings through an intense personal experience.
Answer: The author has used indirect methods to convey the gruesome realities of the war and its devastating effect on the psyche of human beings through an intense personal experience. At the beginning of the story, there is some correlation between Dr Margolin’s past and his present. Even his relationship with his wife cannot be said to be normal for a husband and his wife.
At the wedding ceremony, the routine banter among guests veers towards the horrible past of the Jewish community. At the end of the story, the encounter with the lady who tells herself to be Raizel and the resultant confusion also points towards the disturbed past of the protagonist.