ENG 330 THE DEAD TOWN

Isaac Leib Peretz photo borrowed from:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I._L._Peretz

Isaac Leib Peretz
photo borrowed from:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I._L._Peretz

terms

sholem aleichem: a greeting, literally “peace be upon you”

grass widow: a woman whose husband has disappeared and therefore not legally able to remarry since it is possible that he is still alive

The “dead town” is described in three different ways in the course of the story: first, in terms of its general way of life and institutions; second, in terms of its legal status within the Russian empire; and finally in terms of its undead citizenry.  How does Peretz critque the existence of East European Jewry in these three ways?

Peretz critiques the existence of East European Jewry as one who has no rights nor real power to direct their destiny. In this story, “The Dead Town” seems submerged in altercations and quarrels. There is no time to conduct life in a normal way. The community seems to be in limbo.

The narrator tells the traveller: “The town you describe is Tzachnovka!  Tzachnovka with its affairs and its charities and good deeds!  But why call it a dead town?”  What is the significance of the narrator being familiar with the town in question, as well as not thinking of it as a “dead town”?

Perhaps “The Dead Town” is a metaphor for their divisions and quarrels.

Why do you think the traveller declares that he is “half dead”? Because as your hear it from the passenger’s perspective, the traveller soon realizes that he is in fact half dead. Metaphorically speaking you can’t be dead if you are not aware that you have died. Is this dead, the death of the soul, or the death of a culture?

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