How the “Other” Half(?) Lives

I swear, it’s almost as if there is some psychic connection linking the two syllabuses of these classes together, because today in my European Revolutions we talked about Antisemitism in the latter part of the 19th century — fitting considering how deeply entrenched in middle-class Jewish values Reuben Sachs seems to be. There has been much made in the works of the day about the seemingly great threat that Judaism posed to Western values. Meanwhile, the novel itself is disappointingly mundane; what is this intimate introspection on families and relationships of the Jewish community in the heart of Victorian London? As progressive as Dickens was in many aspects, Great Expectations is still rife with racially charged language and stereotypes of the Jewish population. Having done a bit of background research on the author of Reuben Sachs, Amy Levy, it is quite telling to compare the two representations of Jews in England, especially when one of them is an Old White Guy and the other an actual member of the community. While I don’t personally care about the plot of the novel, as I find it banal and quite unexciting compared to some of the other things we’ve read, it isn’t trying to set the world on fire. As a portrayal of a way of life, particularly for a marginalized and much oppressed community, its existence is valuable in and of itself.

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