Sunday, March 24, 2019
Eleanor Wilners On Ethnic Definitions :: On Ethnic Definitions Essays
On Ethnic Definitions is oneness of the shortest metrical compositions in Eleanor Wilners anthology Reversing the Spell, but it is arguably one of the most powerful. In Definitions, Wilner addresses issues of Judaic identity. As the title implies, she defines the Jewish people in ten lines. The nature of her commentary is not directly obvious, however. At first, readers unfamiliar with Jewish theology may believe that Wilners definition is a bleak one that centers around death. It does at first erupt that Wilner is saying that the very definition of the Jewish people is their death and burial, their destruction. However, later a brief explanation of the Jewish theology behind the poem, readers pass on see that Wilners definition of the Jewish people is by no direction a sad one, but rather a definition that includes take to and a future. Wilner begins by establishing the poems setting with the first two lines the small Jewish ghetto in Prague during World War II. Readers mu st, of course, be familiar with some final solution history to realize what Wilner is writing about. Then Wilner describes the way that the dead were interred standing(a) up for lack of room, calling it the underground / train to Sheol... (5-6). In ancient Jewish theology, Sheol represented the underworld, or the afterlife. It was a place to which everyone went, no matter how one had lived ones life. Continuing with the train imagery, Wilner writes that the Holocaust was a line of achievement hour of ghosts (7). But all hope is not lost one day, the final train will arrive and the final / trump will sound (8-9). In the same line, Wilner lets readers who are familiar with Jewish theology in on what she is writing about. When she writes that the Saved dead will rise she is alluding to the coming of the Messiah, for Jewish theology asserts that the dead will be resurrected at that time (9). Then, in the most important line of the poem, Wilner states when the Messiah comes the dead wh o were buried standing up can at last lie down (10). In these few lines, Wilner has gone through the entire Jewish life pedal in the early 20th century. Jews live in small, cramped ghettos they proceed at the hands of Aryan oppressors they are buried in a way unbefitting their religious traditions and they go to Sheol. The first five lines of the poem focus on the death and burial of the Jews of Prague.