A Simple Story by S.Y. Agnon

Shmuel Yosef Agnon, known as S. Y. Agnon, was a popular Hebrew fiction writer. He significantly influenced the development of Hebrew literature by means of the frequent usage of literary techniques. One of his known romantic stories is A Simple Story. He shares his viewpoints on the lives of Jewish people, offering insight into their prejudices, traditions, and culture.

A Simple Story centers on the life of an orphan named Blume Nacht. Blume has gone to live and work for her cousins after her mother’s death. Agnon uses two excellent literary techniques to describe the characters and their thoughts. He employs both the stream of consciousness technique and internal monologue. These techniques assist in helping the reader to comprehend the atmosphere of the story and enter the characters’ minds.

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The story starts with Blume’s mother death. After her mother’s death, Blume needs to go to her cousins, the Hurvitzes, to find support and understanding. However, the only support that she encounters there is housekeeping. “So, Blume lived with her cousins, cut off from the rest of the world.

The girls from poor families who worked for the Hurvitzes did not seek her company.” (Agnon 8) With time, Hirshl, the son of Mrs. Hurvitz, falls in love with Blume. However, his mother does not approve of his choice of a poor girl. She thinks her son can do much better. As a result, she finds a wife for him named Mina Ziemlich. He is forced to obey his mother’s wishes.

The ideas of love, loneliness, desire, and madness become the central themes in this story. To perfectly represent these themes, the author concentrates on such techniques as internal monologues and streams of consciousness. The internal monologue is a literary technique that aims at presenting the character’s inner life, his/her emotions, and feelings.

This technique is used most often to describe Hirshl’s thoughts. Through his monologues, the writer illuminates his feelings: misunderstandings with his relatives, love to Blume, and marriage with Mina. As a result, the toll this takes on Hirshl makes him go crazy.

“Once again Hirshl had trouble sleeping. After not missing a single night of sleep since his arrival in the sanatorium, he suddenly could not catch a wink of it. And as bad as his insomnia had been in the first place, its reappearance following a long absence drove him to the verge of despair.” (Agnon 192)

Another literary technique used by the author is the stream of consciousness. This aims to describe the character’s life by means of sentence fragments and flashbacks. This technique familiarizes the reader with each character. With the help of such technique, the reader gets the opportunity to relate the characters and comprehend them and their behavior better.

For example, Mrs. Hurvitz was pleasantly surprised that “Blume had indeed been taught all the things that a woman ought to know.” (Agnon 7) However, she did not want to pay Blume for housework underlining the fact that “She is one of us, isn’t she?” (Agnon 7) and, it was unacceptable that a girl like Blume would be a wife for her son. In this case, the use of the technique helps to clear up the true intentions of Mrs. Hurvitz and underlines her selfish nature.

The effect that Agnon has on the literary techniques is considerable. Such combination of literature techniques was a new one for those times, and this approach makes the reader get involved into the story, analyze situations from different perspectives, and enter characters’ mind and feelings.

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