Jewish Identity in The Mandlebaum Gate Essay

2555 Words 11 Pages
Explore conflicting accounts of Jewish Identity in The Mandlebaum
Gate.

The Mandlebaum Gate is a novel by Muriel Spark set in the territories of Jerusalem and Jordan during the Eichmann Trials. Within the novel there is a character "Barbara Vaughan" who is a Gentile Jewess. She travels within Israel and Jordan on a pilgrimage to see the holy shrines and has various adventures and encounters during her trip. It is clear from the first few pages of the novel that Jewish identity is a key theme and continues to be as such throughout.

The first chapter "Freddy's Walk" immediately helps to set the scene as we see him travelling through the "amazing alleys of the Orthodox
Quarter of Israel's Jerusalem"[1] During this chapter
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As soon as Barbara reveals her identity Freddy immediately begins to take note of "the Jewishness of her appearance, something dark and intense beyond her actual shape and colouring"[6] and seems to feel uncomfortable with her until he is able to share "an
English giggle" with her about the wine served in Jerusalem, which is always lukewarm. This reaction to Judaism by Freddy suggests it is something to be ashamed of or uncomfortable with, although as the novel progresses it seems as though Freddy is more at ease with Jews.
It has been suggested that the inclusion of seemingly straightforward characters such as Freddy Hamilton, who act against there typical stereotypes is a device to "maintain a sense of disruption"[7]. This disruption heightens the sense of conflict which radiates from Barbara
Vaughan's tumultuous, confused identity.

The second chapter of "The Mandlebaum Gate" is titled "Barbara
Vaughan's Identity". Within this we are introduced to Barbara's inner quandary which centres on her origins and how they position her in the world, the "split identity of Barbara Vaughan reverberates throughout the novel"[8]. Whilst travelling within Jerusalem she is constantly questioned about her Judaism. When asked about her origins Barbara

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