, Research Paper
Distrust is a major theme throughout “The Silver Crown” by Bernard Malamud. This lack of trust is not only justified by the circumstances in the story but also with the period the story was written and the author’s personal life.
Albert Gans is a teacher whose father is deathly ill with an unknown ailment. Doctors are baffled and do not know what treatment to prescribe to their patient. Emotionally exhausted Albert travels home to rest when he encounters a retarded girl whom offers him some hope. She gives him a card saying: “Heal The Sick. Save The Dying. Make A Silver Crown”(Malamud 5). He follows the address on the card and meets a rabbi by the name of J. Lifschitz who offers him the chance to save his father by having a blessed silver crown made for him. Albert listens to the rabbi as he tells him of the powers of the crown. Eagerly wanting to help his father, Albert inquires about the price of the crown. “One is for 401 and the other is 986”(Malamud 12) Lifschitz explains as Albert ponders the decision he is about to make. After leaving the old rabbi to think about this offer, Albert wonders why he could not see one of the crowns and believes Lifschitz is trying to con him out of his money. He finally is shown one of the crowns and is still convinced he is being swindled out of nine hundred and eighty-six silver dollars. Albert becomes so suspicious of his dealings with the rabbi that ultimately his distrust causes his own father’s death.
The circumstances in the book that lead Albert to assume he is being deceived are numerous. Returning one night to look for the rabbi, Albert asks a colleague of Rabbi Lifschitz’s about the silver crowns and his colleague has no idea what Albert is talking about. This leads Albert to presume there is no silver crown. A few moments later Lifschitz arrives home wearing expensive new clothes. Upon seeing this Albert is infuriated and demands either the return of his money or the silver crown in his hands. Neither of which Lifschitz could produce. Albert then flies into an uncontrollable frenzy and curses his father, the curse that kills him.
Malamud being Jewish often uses his religion in his stories and relates the importance of having faith in God. The place, which he set this story, was an inner city like most of his other works. The effects of suffering are the central point to Malamud’s fiction, his Jews symbolize all victims and that his characters cannot be easily categorized as heroes or villains. It is never clarified whether the rabbi is a charlatan or if he can perform miracles. The death of Albert’s father can be seen as a coincidence or the results of his son’s doubt in the old rabbi.
Distrust is a dangerous emotion. It can cause people to say things they will regret and cause devastating events to happen. The effect of Albert’s suspicion forces him to pay the ultimate price of losing his father. I believe the lesson Malamud tries to convey is to have faith and trust in God no matter how unbelievable the outcome seems.