Take Pity by Bernard Malamud (Analysis & Summary)

English Literature Summary Review Analysis Explanation

The story “Take Pity” deals with the personality of two persons with the background of a socio-politico economic slump after the terrific effects of war. Rosen is replete with pity whereas Eva is repulsive to pity. Both stand on two different podiums of life.

The story “Take Pity” begins with the entrance of Davidov, the census-taker, in the room of Rosen. He gets busy in his work to write down the reasons that led Rosen to commit suicide. Rosen is sitting cross-legged, dejected, and disturbed. He has fallen into this condition after failing in every attempt to help Eva financially. So, he takes the last extreme step to assist Eva by committing suicide but somehow he is saved. He wanted to be no more but he has to face life with all its stark realities. Davidov asks Rosen to narrate the whole story as to why he tried to commit suicide. Rosen feels ashes in his mouth to speak even a single word. Despair has shattered his inner self. However, he gets ready to narrate the incident and murmurs in phiosophical manner.

Mr. Axel Kalish was a Jew refugee from Poland. He had immigrated to America with his wife, Eva, and two small daughters, Frega and Surale. Hitler’s forces killed all his relatives. In America, he had to work like a mad horse to support his family. Somehow he managed to save three thousand dollars and bought a small grocery shop in the back lane of shops. Mr. Rosen, an experienced sales agent told him right away to remove his illusion that such shops generally proved the graves of their owners.

Mr. Rosen advised Axel Kalish to sell the shop at any cost. For the shop had become a burden to him as it could not meet the expenses of his family. Axel Kalish did not dare to go in bankrupt, as he could not stand to lose all his investment. He was also not sure to find a suitable job. At last, he agreed to put all his possessions to auction. Before they could practically act upon the idea of an auction, one day, died suddenly. Thus shop became a real grave for the poor Axel Kalish.

Axel Kalish’s death proved a bolt from the blue for Eva and her two innocent daughters. Eva was left alone in the entire world. She had no property, no regular source of income, and no one to depend upon. Only Rosen was left there to take refuge to stand against economic crisis.

Rosen advised Eva not to waste her money and energy in the shop. He asked her to go to some relative or take up some job. He suggested to her that she was yet attractive to marry somebody who would take the burden of her daughters. She rejected this proposal and said no sensible person would accept a widow with the additional responsibility of two daughters. Thus, she was determined to face the circumstances courageously. She intended to run her husband’s shop to maintain her expenses with the insurance amount of one thousand dollars and fix up the store left by her husband. (Take Pity)

Actually, she could not easily give up the ethical social values dear to her. She was loyal to her late husband and her daughters. Also, she had also a sense of self-respect and personal honor and did not like to be an object of pity and accept charity in any form. She purchased new stock of grocery and all kinds of goods from wholesale dealers in cash. The whole week she opened the packages and arranged them on shelves. She also washed and cleaned the floor, decorated windows with tissue papers. Except for a few poor customers, nobody came there to purchase anything.

Gradually things were gone, they ate up their sales. Little by little, the shelves got empty. She had no creditors except Mr. Rosen who gave some items in the name of the company but he made payment from his pocket without her knowledge. Thus all her planning to maintain her family failed.

Rosen, once again, offered his cooperation to help Eva in such pitiable conditions. He told her to shit in his house free of rent and do some job. And the old tenanted woman would look after her daughters in her absence. She refused his help saying that suffering was her fate, as she had always suffered in the past and she did not expect anything better in the future.

One day the children were hungry, Rosen took a nice piece of beef for them but Eva did not like this offer. Rosen requested her to let him help her and her children. But she was cussed on not receiving any kind of charity. He offered himself to marry her and told her that he was doing all for the sake of girls and wished to enjoy family life before death. Bet Eva replied angrily that she did not like his help. Afterward, he tried to give some cakes and eatables to her girls but they refused by saying that Mama had tod them to observe fast.

Rosen very humbly ofered his help to stock up her shop, once again. SHe was awfully exasperated at his offer and resentfully said to him to get away at once and never visit her in future. Then he sent some money to her disguising that it was from a friend of Axel Kalish who had borrowed seven hundred dollars from him fifteen years ago. Now the money would be returned to her twenty dollars per week but she frustrated Rosen’s this offer as well.

Now Rosen thought of an extremely threatful plan. He went to his lawyer and made out a will that all of his investment, his two houses, cars, furniture, his account, his insurance money, would go to Eva. After her death, the rest would be left for her two daughters. After this, he went to his home and tried to commit suicide but he was saved.

One morning, in the twilight, he saw through the window that Eva was looking at him with beseeching eyes and raised her hands to him for help. He got infuriated and shook his fist at her. So, he abused her and called her a whore, bastard, and bitch. He told her to go back to her girls.

Possible Solutions to Eva’s Economic Issues by Rosen

  • He advises her to run away from the place with thousands of dollars of insurance. Let the creditors occupy the place but they will get nothing.
  • He proposes she does some job and marries somebody, as she is still young and beautiful.
  • She should go to some unknown place and open a new grocery shop at an appropriate site whose sufficient sales could give her adequate profit to support her family.
  • Also, She should go to one of her relatives who might protect and help her to set business and look after her daughters.
  • She should shift to the upper story of Mr. Rosen’s house and do some job. The lady living downstairs on a small payment by Rosen could look after her daughters. Thus by her own ways, she could feed her daughters and make a little savings as well.
  • She should agree to marry Rosen who despite being weak and sick with only one kidney, longed for family life.
  • Rosen tries to get closer to the family Eva by offering sweets and beef to the girls but to no purpose.
  • Also, Rosen also sends twenty dollars weekly through the fake name of her husband’s friend but this attempt also ends in smoke.
  • Rosen takes an extreme step to attempt suicide after writing will in favor of Eva and her daughters.

Opposing Cultures of Eva and Rosen

In the story “Take Pity”, both Eva and Rosen belong to different cultures with different backgrounds. They have contradictory attitudes towards life. Rosen is optimistic and practical towards life and its problems. He thinks where there is a will there is a way. And, he does not give up hope in solving the problems of life in critical situations. He gives different suggestions to Eva to solve her financial problems.

His all proposals are based on his vast experience of business life. But the attitude of Eva towards life is pessimistic. She is not ready to accept any advice from Rosen. She is a fatalist and negatively believes in her ill fate. And, she thinks she has been suffering in the past and will suffer in the future. She does not expect to be a millionaire. She only wants to earn enough to pull on her expenses. Her relations have been killed, her husband is dead, and she and her two daughters are left without any source of regular income. (Take Pity)

Thus she gets totally disappointed and thinks that she is born to suffer. She always looks upon the dark aspects of Rosen’s proposals. She is so awkwardly upset that she fails to use her wits adequately. Incessant sufferings have made her a pessimist and fatalist. However, in the end, we find she realizes that the sincere sympathy of Rosen. Perhaps her sense is restored to decide her problems in a new situation. Rosen is a man of superb patience. Throughout the story, he remains hearing and tolerating the harsh and bitter talk of Eva and her rejection of his proposals. It is agonizing for Rosen that he could not make his influence and sincerity effective till the end. However, she recognizes his goodwill and sincerity at the end and probably they are reconciled.

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