Myla Goldberg Writing Styles in Bee Season: A Novel

Myla Goldberg
This Study Guide consists of approximately 34 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Bee Season.
This section contains 945 words
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Point of View

Bee Season is written entirely from the perspective of an omniscient narrator. This technique serves two specific purposes. First of all, the narrative transitions between past and present at several points in the story. This serves to maintain smooth flow and continuity. Also, the events which take place in a particular character's past are interwoven into their present circumstance. The omniscient narrator's point of view (as it applies to past happenings) is one example of an "aside," a break in present action, which allows the reader to follow the narrative without the experience of being completely removed from the linear trajectory of the novel. For example, the inclusion of biographical information pertinent to certain characters (such as Saul and Miriam Naumann), told from the omniscient narrator's point of view, functions to keep the narrative moving in a forward direction.

The narrator's voice in this novel is completely objective. That is to say, the narrator does not offer any opinion as to what happens to the characters in the narrative. There is no editorializing on the part of the narrator in Bee Season. The reader is left to determine the meaning of the information being offered. This fact proves to be especially salient in terms of Eliza and Aaron's experiences of transcendence. In addition, use of an omniscient narrator adds to the texture of the novel, in that the novel unfolds, revealing itself without commentary, which could influence the reader's view of the characters and the happenings in the narrative proper.

Setting

The majority of Bee Season takes place in and around the Naumann family's home in Norristown, Pennsylvania. During the course of the novel, Eliza and her father Saul also travel to Philadelphia and Washington, DC. where Eliza competes in both the regional and national spelling bees, respectively.

Another location featured in the novel is the ISKCON temple not far from the Naumann home. The ISKCON temple may or may not actually exist. However, this location features prominently in the novel as a kind of "spiritual home" for Aaron, which is positioned in direct opposition to the "biological" home he shares with Eliza, Saul and Miriam. At the ISKCON temple, Aaron Naumann feels as though he is genuinely himself, without the inhibitions of family dynamics which adversely influence his journey to become closer to God.

Alternately, Temple Beth Amicha Synagogue also provides contrast to the Nauman family home. Beth Amicha is the site of Saul's work as a cantor. It is also the site where Aaron Naumann distinguishes himself as something of a star around the time of his bar mitzvah. As the novel progresses, however, Aaron comes to view Beth Amicha as part of the past, a representation of his former self from which he becomes progressively more detached.

Language and Meaning

Bee Season is written entirely in English with Hebrew words (spelled phonetically in English) and Hebrew characters interspersed throughout. The inclusion of Hebrew words and characters lends to the the mysticism of Judaica which underpins the novel's main plot points. It is clear that there are words and phrases that cannot be translated from Hebrew into English. This gives the reader an idea of the nature of the mystical. In regards to Bee Season, Saul and Eliza Naumann both wish to unlock mysteries for which there is no specific language. This fact calls into question the precarious nature of letters and language.

For example, Saul Naumann is a scholar of Judaism and Jewish mysticism, who closely follows the writings of Jewish mystics such as Abraham Abulafia. Eliza Naumann also studies Abulafia, but Eliza's study is based on Saul's translation of Abulafia from Hebrew into English. Therefore, Eliza's understanding of Abulafia's principles is contingent upon her father's interpretation. In terms of representation, Eliza Naumann studies a copy of a copy of Abulafia and not the authentic document itself. It goes without saying that this could pose a problem for the main protagonist once she is able to access what she believes to be "shefa."

Finally, in his study of the Krishna consciousness, Aaron Naumann also faces challenges related to language. Being raised in the Jewish tradition, Aaron is able to set himself apart from others at Beth Amicha by virtue of his acuity with the Hebrew language. However, when he is presented with the Bhagavad Gita and other sacred Sanskrit texts, he faces the same dilemma as his sister Eliza. Aaron reads the Bhagavad Gita in English, translated from Sanskrit. Similar to Eliza's experience with Abulafia, Aaron also reads a copy of a copy. Both characters experience transcendence by studying and interpreting material which is diluted by translation.

Finally, Miriam Naumann's concept of "Perfectimundo" relates to an existential condition rather than anything literal (having to do with language). "Perfectimundo" is Miriam's word for transcendence and when she experiences "Perfectimundo," Miriam is as close to God as either of her children or Saul.

Structure

Myla Goldberg's novel Bee Season is 274 pages in length. The novel is not divided into chapters. This technique functions to present the narrative's events in one uninterrupted stream. The lack of chapter designation also mirrors the main characters' journeys to transcendence ("shefa," "Perfectimundo," total enlightenment). Each character's experience is continuous in nature, one thing folding into the next without headings to mark his/her progression. Also, the absence of chapters produces the effect of the never-ending, constantly-evolving story of Eliza and her family. The end of the novel is somewhat mysterious, as Eliza misspells a word—either intentionally or unintentionally; the nature of Eliza's possible misspelling of the word ORIGAMI is never revealed. Like the study of things mystical, the novel ends without concrete resolution.

This section contains 945 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
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