Reuben Sachs and the Influence of Victorian England on Jewish People

The discrimination and marginalization of Jews in Victorian London described in this section is not surprising being that this was a time in which society worked to actively suppress groups based on criteria like social class and religion. As argued by Reuben, the Jewish people’s ability to prevail/succeed in English society despite discrimination and stereotypes shows the industry, power of endurance, self respect, etc. of the Jewish people. Leo disagrees with Reuben and insults the Jewish community calling them greedy, vain and power-hungry and points out the likelihood that the Jews will get absorbed by the English people. He doesn’t feel the same deeper connection that Reuben feels towards Judaism, instead he criticizes their materialism and vanity. I think that this discrepancy in opinion was interesting considering the Jew’s history of discrimination. I would assume that it would be rare to find a Jew in this society who would so outwardly speak against his own community. I think that Leo’s argument is reflective of the influence of Victorian Era society because of the secular nature of his argument and the concern with Western materialism. I feel that Leo’s view of Jews can be compared to Heathcliff’s character in Wuthering Heights because while he was oppressed because of his humble beginnings, he ended up becoming a vain, power hungry man. Wuthering Heights seems to criticize this type of materialistic behavior, given Heathcliff’s abusive and destructive nature. Throughout this section of Reuben Sachs, the Jewish community is often talked about as a tribe. It seems like many of these Jews in London, like Reuben, find meaning through their connection with their community. Reuben talks about their journey to freedom in society and the novel explains that this community almost exclusively spent time together. This reminds me of Pip’s relationship with Magwitch in Great Expectations because when they were both oppressed, they had each other to rely on and work together to get out of their situation. In this way, both texts shine a light on the importance of connections with other people when moving through an oppressive society.

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