Study Guide

The Golem and the Jinni Dissatisfaction

By Helene Wecker


Without thinking, [The Rabbi had] given the Golem the worst life possible: that of idleness. (4.7)

Some people would love just living a life of nothingness (or the next best thing: playing Minecraft day in and day out), but for the Golem, a creature made to work, she wants to be busy all the time.

Were all books like this? (4.21)

The books the Rabbi gives the Golem aren't exactly Gone Girl or The Golem and the Jinni—in other words, page turners they are not. That said, we think the Golem might be dissatisfied with any fiction since she likes practical things.

What could possibly induces two free being to partner only with each other for the rest of their existence? (7.6)

The Jinni is a free spirit. Well, he was, quite literally, before being confined to human form and stuck in a bottle. As a former philanderer, he doesn't understand why anyone would want to be tied down. That's pretty much like being put inside a bottle inside another bottle.

Sophia was eighteen years old, and she was lonely. […] She was expected to do little more than simply exist, biding her time and minding her manner until she made a suitable match and continued the family line. (7.100)

Sophia is a kindred spirit to the Jinni. Even though she lives in a mansion, the society she's forced to participate in is her version of the Jinni's flask. It's confining, and she's not happy about it.

What, he wondered, was the point of emerging from the flask, if he was only to be caged again? (9.20)

The Jinni isn't happy outside the flask at all. Since he doesn't remember being in the flask for a thousand years, it almost seems preferable to being conscious and trapped.

It was strange: this second tryst had been more satisfying physically […] but he found he preferred their first. Danger and transgression had charged that encounter. (9.41)

Sex for the Jinni seems to be less about the sex and more about the pursuit. He's less-than-satisfied when he's able to just get it on whenever he wants.

All at once the Jinni's tolerance for the Bowery evaporated. It was as though they'd taken everything good about desire and turned it ugly. (11.29)

What happens in the Bowery stays in the Bowery, and although vices might be easy to come by, that somehow diminishes them, at least in the Jinni's eyes.

[The Jinni] could not return to his glass palace, his earlier life, bound as he was. He'd be forced to seek refuge in the jinn habitations, among his kind but utterly apart, pitied and feared, pointed out as a cautionary example to the wayward young. (12.82)

The Jinni knows he'd be unhappy even if he went back home. Maybe even more so, because there he'd be with creatures that are still able to do everything he used to do, reminding him even more sharply of how unhappy he is in his current form.

This is the most you can hope for, the dance hall was telling him. This much, and no more. (18.154)

Sure, the dance hall is great, but compared to the vast Syrian Desert, it's like trading a French pastry for a Pop-Tart. The Jinni has to learn to accept that this is his life now. He can't go back to the way things were and maybe, just maybe, things now aren't as bad as they seem.

Arbeely gave no sign that he minded the repetition, and the Jinni was beginning to detest him for that. (20.31)

The Jinni wishes that everyone else would be as unhappy as he is, but humans, who haven't known any other forms, are often content with their lives, or at least not as dissatisfied as the Jinni is.