Study Guide

The Magic Barrel What's Up With the Title?

By Bernard Malamud

What's Up With the Title?

How in the name of all things literary does a story about frustration, uncertainty and loss earn the title "The Magic Barrel?" It barely gets a mention in the story. Salzman says that his drawers "are already filled to the top (with bachelorette portfolios) so I keep them now in a barrel" (7). However, when Leo goes to Salzman's apartment, he realizes that there is no barrel in sight.

So there is no magic barrel. Got that. But riddle us this: how could it possibly warrant getting mentioned in the title? Not to mention the National Book Award-winning short story collection that this story appeared in?

For that, O Shmoopers, head on over to the Symbols section. We've got a whole analysis of this (non)magical (non)barrel just waiting for you.

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