Bernard Malamud's, "The Magic Barrel", examines the transformation of protagonist, Leo Finkle, as he attempts to find a marital partner. Devoid of all social interaction due to his rabbinical studies, Leo resolves to acquire the assistance of a matchmaker in determining a suitable spouse. The resulting occurrences shape Leo Finkle's outlook on numerous significant issues. In Bernard Malamud's, "The Magic Barrel", Leo Finkle's philosophy regarding the concepts of love and religion are fundamentally altered through a period of self-enlightenment. Through his interactions with Lily Hirschorn, Stella Salzman, and Pinye Salzman, Leo Finkle experiences an ideological transformation, which proves imperative to the success of his future intimate relationships, as well as his career.
To begin, the character of Lily Hirschorn within "The Magic Barrel", directly influences Leo Finkle to re-evaluate the basis of his relationship with God. Ms. Hirschorn's affiliation with Leo is established through the use of a matchmaker who indentifies Lily as a potential spouse for Mr. Finkle. Upon their initial encounter, Lily Hirschorn appears devotedly interested in Leo's religious reverence. She repeatedly questions him regarding his occupational choice: "How was it that you came to your calling? I mean was it a sudden passionate inspiration?" (Bernard 219). Lily's tedious inquiries cause Leo to ponder as to why he desired to become a rabbi, which results in a personal revelation. Mr. Finkle confesses: "I think...that I came to God not because I loved Him, but because I did not" (219).
This admission contrasts with the conventional ideologies of a religious devotee, and therefore Leo possesses slight trepidation as a product of this self-discovery. Furthermore, Leo Finkle contemplates discarding his previous professional venture due to the absence of love within his relationship with God. However, he "regained his composure and some idea of purpose in life: to go on as planned. Although he was imperfect, the ideal was not" (220). Finkle's period of self-enlightenment pertaining to his spirituality is a direct result of Lily Hirschorn.
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