The Conversion of the Jews

How does Philip Roth use imagery in The Conversion of the Jews?

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Unlike the Jewish community in the story, which Roth portrays as very closed-minded, Ozzie is an independent thinker who views his world in an expressive way. Nothing is boring for Ozzie. His mind, which depicts even simple acts and situations as vivid images, influences the narration. The imagery in the story is particularly expressive when it applies to Ozzie's religious beliefs. For example, he likes watching his mother perform the ritual of lighting candles: "When his mother lit the candles she would move her two arms slowly towards her, dragging them through the air, as though persuading people whose minds were half made up." Ozzie is enthralled by the spiritual nature of his simple yet meaningful ceremony. The power of this image makes him think that his mother will support his religious inquiry into the possible divine birth of Jesus. Says the narrator, "when she lit candles she looked like . . . a woman who knew momentarily that God could do anything." For this reason, he is crushed when his mother hits him for asking his question in class.

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The Conversion of the Jews