Study Guide

The Golem and the Jinni Freedom and Confinement

By Helene Wecker

Freedom and Confinement

She heard a man nearby, breathing. She knew his name and who he was. He was her master, her entire purpose; she was his golem, bound to his will. (1.68)

The Golem isn't just twelve years a slave, she's going to be a lifetime a slave. The difference is that, since she was made that way, she doesn't seem to mind it. In fact, she prefers it.

For three days the rains came and went, three days of infuriating confinement. (2.94)

Being made of fire, the Jinni can be stifled by dreary weather. It's like an extreme, mystical version of Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Arbeely's "palace" was a tiny, dim room barely large enough for a bed, a miniature armoire, and a half-moon table pushed up against a dingy sink. (3.85)

The Jinni comes from a real palace, a large one in the desert. This whole a man's home is his castle thing doesn't quite sit right when your actual home is a castle.

When the streets felt too confining [the Jinni] would travel the rooftops, which were like a city unto themselves. (9.15)

The Jinni is probably the only creature that finds New York City confining, but he does what he can to break free of those figurative shackles of apartment life. Being out on the rooftops and having a pristine view of the sky is closer to desert life than being on the streets surrounded by buildings.

If [the Rabbi] succeeded, and bound her to a new master, he would be robbing her of all she'd accomplished. Her free will would disappear, to be replaced by her master's commands. (10.109)

On the surface, it seems like the Rabbi is going to do something terrible, taking away the Golem's free will. But what if she doesn't want it anyway? If a slave wants to be a slave does that make enslavement okay?

Walking under [the umbrella], he felt hemmed in, surrounded. (11.18)

The Jinni and Rihanna would not get along. For the Jinni, the umbrella is a symbol of how trapped he is in New York City, especially in the rain, which is the opposite of the desert heat.

"You called him your master. I assumed he forced you to be his servant?" "It wasn't like that," she muttered. (13.129)

The Golem and the Jinni have different views on freedom. The Jinni cannot comprehend that someone might want a master, and by this point, the Golem has realized that being bound to a master isn't exactly anyone's default preference in this world.

In a way, life at the House was like being incarcerated again. (14.13)

Schaalman is used to coming and going as he pleases—he is decidedly not used to abiding by the rules of a boarding house. And since this wizard has actually been in jail, he knows exactly what incarceration feels like. (We hope the food at the Sheltering House is better at least.)

"I have no idea," [the Jinni] said, "how long I was that man's servant. His slave. I don't know what he made me do." (14.94)

We're not sure what's worse, being someone's servant, or not remembering what you had to do when you were a servant. Would you want to remember, or would you want to forget?

Together they lay until dawn, the Golem caught inside Michael's arms, counting the minutes as they passed. (22.136)

Look at that word choice: "caught inside Michael's arms." For the Golem, marriage isn't all she thought it would be—it's confining.

By all accounts, the jinn under Sulayman's rule loved their master and accepted his yoke joyfully. At least, by all human accounts. The jinn tell their own tales, and in them Sulayman is an enslaver. (22.185)

Of course the enslaver will tell everyone that his slaves are happy. It's like Song of the South Syrian-style.