The Finkler Question Summary & Study Guide

This Study Guide consists of approximately 58 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Finkler Question.
This section contains 657 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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The Finkler Question Summary & Study Guide Description

The Finkler Question Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson.

The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson is an intriguing novel about three friends, two of whom are Jewish and one who decides to be a Jew. Julian Treslove struggles with his newfound identity as a Jewish Gentile while Libor Sevcik mourns his wife's death and Sam Finkler learns to cope with his convoluted feelings about being Jewish. The Finkler Question is a very interesting and entertaining novel that questions what it means to be Jewish in an inherently anti-Semitic world.

After leaving dinner with Libor and Sam, Julian is mugged by a woman, causing him to become obsessed with his belief that she may have called him Jewish. Both recently widowed, Libor mourns for Malkie, but Sam is unable to mourn for Tyler. When Julian tells Sam about the mugging, Sam believes Julian invented it because he wants to be Jewish. After recalling his affair with Tyler, Julian runs into Libor while searching for the mugger, and Libor invites Julian to dinner with a group of fellow Jews, so Julian attends his first Seder where he meets Hephzibah. Meanwhile, Sam has a falling out with the ASHamed Jews, an academic group he joined despite Tyler's objections. Emmy, an old friend, contacts Libor to ask for help in contacting the media after her grandson is blinded in an anti-Semitic incident. After a vacation in Italy, Julian moves in with Hephzibah and finds that he enjoys being Jewish. He agrees to help her set up the new Anglo-Jewish museum of which she will be curator. Libor continues to grieve for Malkie.

When Julian invites Libor and Sam over for dinner, he is jealous of the way the three Jews interact, feeling he is excluded and will never understand their secret Jewish language and customs. Though Julian studies Judaism intently, he fears he will never understand it. Hephzibah is both amused and frightened when there are vandalisms at the museum, but Julian does not possess the emotional flexibility to understand how she can experience both emotions at once. Libor informs Emmy that he cannot help her because there is no point in doing so; maybe this is the way things are supposed to be. While Hephzibah worries that Julian is draining her of gloom and her Judaism, Julian suspects that Hephzibah and Sam are having an affair. When Julian confides in Libor about his suspicions and his affair with Tyler, Libor is saddened and claims Julian, like everyone else, is an anti-Semite. Julian, Hephzibah and Sam go to a play and out for drinks to celebrate Julian's birthday, and Julian begins to think he has had his share of them. Hephzibah becomes nervous about the influx in recent anti-Semitic incidents, and Julian believes that he feels more for Jews than they do for themselves; he believes that Jews, like him, do not have a chance. Sam reads a letter Tyler left him in which she claimed his expectations for Jews are higher than for anyone else.

After Libor commits suicide by jumping from the cliffs at Beachy Head, Julian, Sam and Hephzibah mourn for their lost friend. Because he feels life is disgraceful, Julian often walks through Regent's Park, and one day, he breaks up a group taunting a young Sephardic Jew. He returns home to realize he is late for the museum opening, so he rushes to the museum where security refuses him entrance because he forgot his invitation. After a brawl, Julian spends the night in the hospital, and though Hephzibah visits while he is sleeping, she is convinced he simply does not want to see her because she has become part of what disgusts him in life. Sam and Hephzibah say the Kaddish for Libor. Hephzibah also laments the loss of Julian because she is unsure if he was ever really there, and Sam mourns for Libor, Tyler and all Jews, in addition to Julian who, he realizes, he never really knew either.

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