Brutality And Malamud’s “The Jewbird”

The main character in Bernard Malamud‘s short story “The Jewbird,” a bird that calls himself a Jewbird flies through the open window of a Jewish family’s apartment and never willingly leaves there. He is fleeing certain culprits, enemies, especially anti-Semites. The bird represents the Jewish race.

He cannot pay back the Cohen family for his food and shelter, but can only do them the favor of necessarily helping son Maurie with his schoolwork. The father is suspicious of and then hostile to the bird (“whoever heard of a Jewbird?”) Yes, he is a surreal creature, but the bird brings into relief the family’s failure to really understand the threat of anti-Jewish hate, and of human brutality in general. It is the bird who understands as he begins to live as though he were in a chamber or a prison camp of terror. This is before the story’s horrific ending when it becomes clear how indistinguishable violent anti-Semites are from predatory animals.

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