The Reconstruction of Jewish Male Identity in Edward Lewis Wallant’s The Pawnbroker, Isaac Bashevis Singer’s Enemies: A Love Story, and Saul Bellow’s Mr. Sammler’s Planet
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The novels discussed in this study present a male perception of the Holocaust. Sarah Horowitz identifies the Holocaust master narrative as a master narrative, for it represents male reception and perception of reality as leitmotif for the cultural representation of the consequences of the Nazi atrocity (159). She clearly indicates that genocide designates the destruction of the self, which is always a gendered self (167). Jewish men denied the right to their own identity, bereft of the rights of citizenship and ownership, were humiliated into the space of powerlessness, culturally occupied by women, thus “antisemitic ideology feminize[d] men, depicting them as both more and less than “real” men” (175-178). The Jewish self is unmade and undone in the process. The female body is perceived as a space of denigration and oppression, and behavior that goes beyond the boundaries of fixed gender identity brings chaos into the established scheme of things, whereas the suffering of the male body has a heroic association. As a result, women are used as a tool denoting the humiliation of the male Jew and the trauma of this historical event (167). To Horowitz, Holocaust fiction represents male Jews as unmanned by their experience of the Holocaust. And that is how Wallant, Singer, and Bellow paint their male protagonists. They are all haunted by the trauma of their past, which contains images of their powerlessness.