Study Guide

The Golem and the Jinni Chapter 1

By Helene Wecker

Chapter 1

  • A man named Otto Rotfeld has smuggled a Golem aboard the Baltika, a ship bound for New York from Danzig, a city in Northern Poland.
  • You see, Rotfeld is "gangly and unattractive" (1.4), as well as "arrogant, but also lonely" (1.5), so he had to go to a man named Yehudah Schaalman to make himself a wife. It's like a Polish version of Lars and the Read Girl.
  • The Golem is tall, and although she is made of clay, she looks and feels like a real woman; she is "a slave to [Rotfeld's] will" (1.39) and will "protect [him] without thinking" (1.43).
  • Aboard the Baltika, Rotfeld unpacks the crate and opens a little envelope labeled To Wake the Golem.
  • He reads it, and she wakes up. Good morning, sunshine.
  • Rotfeld barely gets the opportunity to acquaint himself with his newly made wife before he gets appendicitis and dies.
  • Without a master, the Golem is suddenly able to hear the thoughts and desires of every person aboard the ship: "Each one was like a small hand plucking at her sleeve: please do something" (1.124). She basically feels like anyone working retail on Black Friday.
  • As most retail employees yearn to do at some point, the Golem considers throwing herself overboard.
  • Unlike most retail employees, the Golem can breathe indefinitely underwater. So when the ship's officials become suspicious at her sudden appearance, and her lack of a ticket, she jumps off the boat and merely walks ashore to New York City.
  • She emerges, soaking wet, covered in mud.