Ideas for Reports and Papers

  1. How important is the element of fantasy in Singer’s stories? Does it detract from or enhance the realism they also contain?
  2. Compare the mainly autobiographical stories in A Day of Pleasure with the more forthrightly fictional tales in books such as Gimpel the Fool or Short Friday. What aspects of Singer’s imagination are common to all of them? How can you tell they were all written by the same author?
  3. The Talmud and the Mishna contain important supplements to and commentaries on the Old Testament. Why does Singer often refer to them? Can you find out anything more about them?
  4. Many Americans and Europeans are familiar with Yiddish literature through the musical comedy Fiddler on the Roof, which was adapted from Sholom Aleichem’s Tevye stories. Compare the characters and incidents in A Day of Pleasure with those in either Aleichem’s stories or the musical comedy. Are there important similarities or differences? What are they?
  5. Singer shows the diversity of the Jewish people. Hasidic Jews, such as Isaac’s father, represent only a minority sect. What other sects are there, and how are they different? Does Singer give any examples of the conflicts among them?
  6. Chaim Potok is an American-born rabbi who is also a novelist. His first novel, The Chosen, was made into a film. Do the problems and concerns the boys experience in Potok’s work resemble those of young Isaac and his friends? How are they different?
  7. Spinoza was an important Jewish philosopher who was excommunicated as a heretic. What did the rabbis find objectionable in his views? What ideas appeal to Isaac in “The New Winds”? Can you explain their appeal to him or to others?