What seems to be the purpose of this story? What may be its intended audience?
What is the "Satan Mekatrig"? Is the story fittingly titled?
What are some features of the opening scene? What kind of details are presented? (room is stifling and causes fainting; married women disfigured by wigs)
What are some moments of irony? (the "Congregation of Love and Mercy" doesn't live up to its name; since his wife had fainted she doesn't know of Moshe's deed)
What sacriligous act does Moshe commit? What prompts him to this unthinkable behavior? (feels nervous compulsion) Is any alternative explanation provided for the defamation of the scroll? (lightning strikes it)
How does the Rabbi interpret this scene? (a sign of the congregation's sinfulness in failing in scrupulous observance)
How does nature function in "Satan Metakrig"? (flood and lightning seem symbolic, sun appears after Moshe and Satan leave the synagogue)
How is "Satan" described? What is significant about the fact that all the men present recognize him?
What is the content of Moshe's outburst to the congregation? (a compendium of doubts about the value of cultural and religious integrity--eat, drink, and be merry)
On arriving home, how does his wife explain the fact that she had fainted? (had seen Satan Mekatrig)
How do they interpret his presence? (he is Socialist Atheist)
What do we learn of Moshe's occupation? (tailor)
What unusual events seem to occur as Moshe leaves the synagogue in Satan's presence? (witnesses brutality, quarreling, theft, experiences the desire to steal)
What causes Rivkoly grief on the Day of Atonement? (her husband has defected, has thrown away the Mezuzah, candle splutters, black cat jumps out the window) What other changes has she observed in him? (clever, political speech, takes to smoking and drinking)
What events occur to Rivkoly after she flees to the synagogue? (prays and experiences a dream of her parents and the holy prophets) What is the relation between her subjective experience and the external service? The future events of the story? (Moshe will find forgiveness)
What role does she assume throughout the story?
What final temptation does Satan Metakrig propose? (that he be baptized in order to obtain alms) What degrading circumstance does Satan Mekatrig claim has sustained them? (he has been paid for converting)
What final act of mercy occurs on Moshe's deathbed? (his wife forces her way in and hands him their newborn son)
What is the significance of the final scene observed by Satan Mekatrig? (he sees the united threesome and realizes he has lost the battle for Moshe's soul) Does the scene of mother, father, and newborn son have any wider associations? (parallels story of Bethlehem)
What is added to the story by the divisions punctuated by biblical quotations?
What attitudes does the narrator seem to hold toward the people he describes? To what degree does he respect the culture of orthodox Jews? What aspects of East End Jewish life does the narrator seem to value? To criticize? (disapproves of a neglect of hygiene, dislikes practice of forcing women to wear wigs, finds rigidity of belief excessive, finds ceremonies beautiful and moving, scriptures themselves reflect inner emotions of a people)
What attitudes toward East End London Jews were held by many Britons of the period? How might this story have been designed to combat them?
Some of Zangwill's stories were criticized in Jewish newspapers of the period; can you guess the grounds for such criticism?
What are features of Zangwill's style? Are there humorous aspects to the author's narration?
Are any aspects of this story unclear or puzzling? Would you describe it as ambiguous or indeterminate?
What is the meaning of the final scene? Is the "Satan mekatrig" victorious? Do you find the ending surprising? Sentimental? Fitting?
What is the effect of naming the story after the Satan figure, rather than, say, after one of the protagonists?
Are there stereotypical aspects of the lives of Moshe and Rebecca? How does the story highlight them?
What do you think is the narrator's attitude toward the orthodox separation of men from women in the synagogue? What role is given Rebecca in the story?
How are "visions" used to reinforce the tales themes?
Does this story suggest any old legends or myths? Any earlier works of literature you have read?
What insights does this story offer, e. g., about multiple points of view, religion, or the importance of cultural identity? On what possible social conflicts within the Jewish community at the time may it shed light?
"Satan Mekatrig" was one of a minority of Zangwill's stories published in the Jewish press, and it was criticized for alleged inaccuracies in some of its details. Why might Zangwill have found it useful to publish his stories in general interest periodicals?
"The Keeper of Conscience"
- Are there resemblances between this story and “Satan Mekatrig”? Would you describe this story as a tragedy or comedy, as sad or humorous?
- What are some general features of the setting and social milieu of the story?
- What is the significance of the title? What might have been the purpose of this title, as opposed to, say, “Mr. Brill’s Defection,” “A London Marriage,” “Salvina’s Struggle,” or some other descriptive label? Do you think the title is intended as ironic, and if so, against whom is the irony directed?
- How is the word "conscience" used throughout the story?
- Can you comment on the story’s characterization? What are we expected to think of Mrs. Brill, Mr. Brill, Laurence, Salvina, Kitty, the Jonases and Samuelsons, etc.? How does the portrayal of Mrs. Brill contribute the characterization of Salvina?
- Did the ending surprise you? What effect does the portrayal of Salvina’s death and the emotions of her relatives have on the meaning of the story?
- Are there other suprising features of the outcome? Do you find any aspects of the characterization or story inconsistent or unexpected?
- How is furniture used as a central image in the story? Are there comic aspects to using furniture as a means of tracing family relations?
- What is the purpose of presenting Salvina as a romantic? Are her hopes born out by the events of the plot?
- What is the significance of Salvina’s name? How are her life and struggles unusual within the context of the stories we have read? Does she resemble other heroines? What aspects of her life and beliefs seem to arise from gender expectations/ conditions for women in her class and period?
- Can you comment on features of Zangwill’s style? What are some instances of irony and humor? How central is irony to his message?
- To what extent does this story depend/revise character stereotypes? Do you find parallels between features of its plot and world-view and that of other short stories we have read from the period?
- What is the importance of figures such as Sugarman and the funerary monument carver? What do you think Zangwill thinks of Sugarman and the issue of arranged marriages?
- Would the roles assumed by Salvina have seemed appropriate to a Victorian audience?
- What are some aspects of property law/ marriage law/ economic changes of the 1880s and 90s which are foregrounded in the story?
- Based on this story, can you tell what may have been some of the social commitments of its author--e. g., what may have been his views of the importance of education, women’s rights, or equal property laws?
- How do you think a Jewish audience of the day would have responded to this story of conflicted/disfunctional/destructive family relations? How might a more general audience have interpreted it?