Study Guide

The Magic Barrel Lies and Deceit

By Bernard Malamud

Lies and Deceit

"The Magic Barrel" toys with the idea of white lies, and how harmful (or awesome?) they might be. Salzman lies about the girls he shows to the rabbi, while Leo lies to himself about what he wants and why he's studying to be a rabbi. It's truth-allergy season in New York for these characters.

Even though lying is a no-no, characters in this story often lie with the very best of intentions and the hope that something good will come of them. They also help illustrate the characters' human failingsā€¦ which help us connect to them more readily.

Questions About Lies and Deceit

  1. Does Salzman really lie about the girls? Or is he just exaggerating a little bit? Is there a difference?
  2. How, specifically, are Salzman's lies damaging to his clients?
  3. In what ways does Leo lie to himself about what he's doing?
  4. Would Salzman be more successful at matchmaking if he were a better liar?

Chew on This

Salzman's lies are ultimately harmless and may even do some good.

Salzman's lies, though well-meaning, are quite harmful and prevent his clients from finding true love.

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