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The Magic Barrel Essay | Critical Essay #4

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Critical Essay #4

In the following excerpt, Reynolds investigates the meaning of the prayers for the dead that Salzman chants at the conclusion of "The Magic Barrel."

Published analyses of Bernard Malamud's "The Magic Barrel" praise the "richly ambiguous" conclusion. The consensus is that to reduce the story to specific meaning is to do the author an injustice. Perhaps, however, an interpretation may be sustained that points to a consistent moral thread.

Pinye Salzman is, as Professor Bellman suggests [in "Women, Children and Idiots First: The Transformation Psychology of Bernard Malamud," Critique (1965)], "almost supernatural." The title of the story supports that. What exactly is a magic barrel? Apparently Malamud did not have a specific analogue in mind, but the concept is quite clear; it is a barrel which produces surprises, usually inexhaustible quantities or unique qualities, or both. Plainly Salzman's briefcase is the magic barrel, providing first an endless number of...

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This section contains 810 words
(approx. 3 pages at 300 words per page)
Purchase our The Magic Barrel Study Guide
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The Magic Barrel from BookRags and Gale's For Students Series. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.
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