Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department / School


First Advisor

Paul Witherington


In an interview with critic Robert Kegan, Bernard Malamud spoke about his characters: "What strikes me about them,” he said, “is that all throughout they have possibilities. They have opportunities to leave. They have a way out, but they never give up.” “My belief, Malamud said, is in human possibility”. As an experimenter with the novel form, Malamud has written seven novels, each uniquely different in style and genre, and yet each expressing this vision of human possibility. The main characters in his novels possess within themselves the potential to overcome their self-doubts and moral indiscretions. When they do, they assume a new life based on the time-honored value of service to others with love and compassion. When they fail, they become static reminders of Malamud's belief that a life without human service and commitment is a life devoid of meaning and purpose. These "human possibilities" for growth and commitment are played out in a world which is rife with human suffering and deprivation. From the poor neighborhoods of The Assistant's New York City to the fabled wastelands of God's Grace's nuclear devastation, Malamud's characters shuffle through their lives isolated from humanity and beleaguered by circumstance. They are frequently, as Samuel Weiss says, ". Jews without money, anxious, luckless, and frustrated, and engaged in a fundamental struggle to survive or to find and fix a purpose in life". In the Yiddish vernacular, they are known as schlemiels, "holy innocents," who, in spite of hard luck and bad breaks, have managed to survive and grow both morally and spiritually. Ruth Wisse comments that in literature "a schlemiel is above all a reaction against the evil surrounding him…".

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Malamud, Bernard -- Criticism and interpretation



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University


No Copyright - United State