3: Text excerpt, Ruth Wisse's "The Shlemiel as Modern Hero," 1971.
Ruth Wisse, a preeminent scholar of Yiddish literature, sees a trajectory in the novella (and, indeed, through all of Abramovitsh’s writing) away from satire.
Suggested Activities: Have students read Wisse’s observation about Benjamin, noting that in Yiddish, a schlemiel is a hapless, ineffectual, or unlucky person. Then define satire for students. Ask them to find two or three passages in the novella where they see social satire, then to find two or three passages where Benjamin seems more heroic. Analyze these passages. What is being satirized? How can Benjamin be considered heroic?
Source: Ruth Wisse, The Shlemiel as Modern Hero (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971), 30.