Die Heuning Pot Literature Guide
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Themes

In Tevye the Dairyman, God is just one more person to argue with. And it's also the source of Tevye's most long-lasting and emotional relationship—full of ongoing conversations, deep philosophical contemplation, and even some psychological healing. On the other hand, Tevye is also really into looking like a deeply devout man, impressing everyone with his knowledge of the Torah and the Talmud and cramming as many of his own interpretations of scripture down the throats of everyone he meets as possible. So, which is it? Is religion something you put on with your Sunday (er, Saturday) clothes, or is it something much more essential?

Questions About Religion

  1. Is Tevye a religious man? Sure, he obviously believes in God, but what does that belief mean to him? Does he see God as more of a mentor? As a friend? As an enemy?
  2. How is the village priest portrayed in the book? Is he a sympathetic figure? A horrible one? Why?
  3. Why does Tevye pray? Do other characters pray?
  4. What do you make of Perchik's dual ideas that he "is God's" as he tells Tevye, and also his atheism? Can he believe both?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Tevye depicts its protagonist as a modern-day Job, with the oppressive tsarist regime in early 20th-century Russia playing the part of Satan.

Sholem Aleichem suggests that Tevye's disbelief in free will leads to most of the book's catastrophes.

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