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Tevye the Dairyman

Tevye the Dairyman

by Sholem Aleichem

The Book of Job

Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory

Okay, so before we get launch into this one, let's do a little summary of the whole Job dealie. In the Biblical Book of Job, we get the story of a totally upstanding and super religious guy that God really loves to brag about. One day, Satan is all, "Dude, of course he totally believes in You—You've given him everything! I bet I can make him doubt."

So They make a bet, and Satan makes Job's life a living hell. He loses his wealth, his family, and finally his health, all in crazy excruciating and totally meaningless ways that (obviously) involve boils.

Finally, at the very end of his rope, Job looks up at the sky and is like, "Um, hello? WTF?" To which a really angry God replies that basically, Job doesn't have the faintest idea of God's plan and has no right to question Him about anything that happens, like it or lump it. And so from that, we get the more colloquial sense of Job as the guy to whom all sorts of horrible things happen for no reason.

And you know who really—really—loves to cast himself in the role of a modern-day Job? Okay, it's not a hard one. It's obviously Tevye. In his long, ongoing dialogues with God (um… maybe monologues to God? It's not like an actual convo or anything, obviously), Tevye always plays the part of the beleaguered and put upon creature who is just having crap dumped on him with no end in sight.

There aren't any explicit references to Job, but scholars agree that the Book of Job is, like, totally all over the stories. (Only they use fancier language.) What is the Book of Job doing for Tevye? Does this give him a sense of comfort from feeling like he is not in control and is stepped on? Is it an excuse for bad behavior?

Or is it just a selfish trick to make sure that everything is all about him, all the time?

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