Leo Finkle: The Embodiment of Spiritual Rebirth in “The Magic Barrel”



Leo Finkle, the protagonist in Jewish American author Bernard Malamud’s famous short story “The Magic Barrel”, is a representative embodiment of universal spiritual rebirth, especial for the Jewish people who have suffered a lot in their specific history and culture. In his writing, Astro (1977) once remarks, “Malamud often uses a prison motif to evoke any place or circumstance which restricts man’s freedom of development”. The severity of his characters’ suffering is a necessity — only great affliction can bring out their hidden spiritual force and their understanding of their own capacity for dignity and compassion. Leo Finkle, realizing his own dignity and his responsibility to others, comes out of his isolated zone and steps out to achieve his own spiritual rebirth. Based on psychoanalysis, this paper attempts to address inward struggles of Leo Finkle, an epitome of all humankind, and explore how he achieves his spiritual rebirth when he is confronted with conflicting reality, through which, we can also have a profound understanding of Malamud’s humanist care not only for Jewish people, but also for all human beings, that is to say, his concern about universal humanities such as mercy, redemption, spiritual rebirth so on and so forth. In this way, we may pay more attention to Jewish people and other marginalized social groups in today’s society.


Spiritual rebirth; Psychoanalysis; Inward struggles; Humanist care; Marginalized social groups

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3968/10520


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