THE DAEMONIC LIFE OF OBJECTS: OBJECT-ORIENTED CRITICISM AND CYNTHIA OZICK’S “THE PAGAN RABBI” DILLON ROCKROHR Cynthia Ozick’s short story “The Pagan Rabbi” is about Isaac Kornfeld, a once brilliant and promising rabbi until he was found having hanged himself in a tree at Trilham’s Inlet, a bay area just beyond the main part of the city. When the narrator of the story goes to visit Kornfeld’s widow Sheindel after Kornfeld’s death, Sheindel makes the narrator read aloud the suicide letter left in Kornfeld’s pocket. This letter reveals the late contemplations of a man who, towards the end, was rapidly becoming rather unorthodox. Kornfeld became obsessed with the possibility of an inhuman vitality residing in Nature—in the rivers, the plants, and trees. This life, he determined, takes the form of entities like dryads and naiads called “the free souls” (2006, 20), which he contrasted with the souls of humans, who “are cursed with the indwelling” (16). Kornfeld’s discoveries and his pursuit of copulating with one of the free souls leads ultimately to his suicide and to Sheindel’s accusations that he had “scaled the Fence of the Law” and was therefore a pagan and not a Jew (17). The following essay
symploke – University of Nebraska Press
Published: Nov 28, 2018
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