Davita S Harp Essay Format
Potok situates most of his novels within the context of American Jewish life in the first half of the twentieth century, and Orthodox Judaism is certainly a central focus in Davita’s Harp. Because Potok goes deeply into the particulars to locate what is universal in human experience, however, his readership is not restricted. Davita’s Harp is set against a background of Christianity as well as Judaism, and it also investigates political issues as Potok deals with what he considers to be the central social problem of the twentieth century: how people confront ideas that are different from their own.
Potok structures his novels carefully and tends to set up the central metaphor of each in an early scene. This time, the metaphor is the door harp, which plays gentle, sweet music. The harp has been a constant in Davita’s peripatetic life, yet it is a dynamic symbol. The harp is strong enough to accept outer influences: In fact, it becomes a haven for the bird of Uncle Jakob’s story, the bird that Davita liberates from Guernica, and eventually even Davita herself. Though the harp is solid and stationary, it becomes the means through which Davita can fly outside the limitations of time and space: to the Maine farmhouse to give her aborted graduation speech; to a reunion with her deceased father and uncle; and to a greater understanding and healing of spirit. The metaphor underscores the central theme in Davita’s...
(The entire section is 528 words.)
The novels of Chaim Potok typically concern themselves with conflicts between worldviews, usually as represented by the American Orthodox Jewish tradition and aspects of the secular world. Davita’s Harp is the story of a girl’s search for balance—between practicality and idealism, between the inner self and the outer environment. Davita’s parents are intelligent people who have rejected their respective religions and become passionately dedicated to Communism. Davita describes in detail the Communist Party meetings that the Chandals hold in a succession of tenement apartments, apartments that they are regularly forced to leave by unsympathetic landlords.
Amid the instability of Davita’s physical environment, two objects stay constant: a picture on her parents’ bedroom wall of three white horses, and a door harp hung on the front door of whatever apartment they call home. Davita looks at the picture often, feeling that she is almost able to enter into the scene. She also loves to listen to the sounds of the harp whenever the door is opened or closed. To Davita, it rings the most gentle and sweetest of tones.
Eight-year-old Davita, a precocious child with a rich inner life, is growing up in turbulent times. Her main outer influence is her parents’ politics. She often falls asleep at night to the sound of impassioned voices talking about dialectic materialism, tools of production, capitalists, Benito Mussolini, and Adolf Hitler. Although her parents do not talk about the religions they have abandoned, Davita learns about them both. She learns about Christianity from her aunt, Sarah Chandal; she learns about Orthodox Judaism from her neighbors, the Helfmans, and from Ezra and David Dinn. She learns about the power of the imagination from Jakob Daw, a noted leftist writer and family friend. Jakob tells Davita about the search for truth; the images he uses in his stories come from deep within his heart and lodge at a correspondingly deep level within Davita’s own.
Eventually, Michael’s newspaper sends him to cover the war in Spain, Channah becomes absorbed in Party activities, and Davita is left essentially on her own. She follows the Helfmans to the local synagogue and starts to...
(The entire section is 914 words.)