The Dollmaker

Victim or Traitor: The Judas Theme in Arnow's "The Dollmaker" College

The legend of Judas is a constant background murmur in Harriette Arnow's The Dollmaker. It begs us to wonder: is Gertie Nevels a victim or a betrayer? Many believe that Christ's betrayal was preordained and that Judas, with his kiss, was obeying God's command, suggesting his innocence of wrongdoing. Others believe that his act was a willful sin. To a lesser degree, Gertie can also be seen as a traitor, betraying herself and her children as she tries to obey her mother and the Bible's command, "Wives, be in subjection unto your husbands" (154). Throughout the story, she both identifies with and pities Judas.

Gertie's preoccupation with Judas is revealed early on when she remarks that she would like to carve the traitor's likeness. Soon after, we're introduced to Gertie's block of wild cherry wood, with its man hidden deep inside and only the top of his head showing. Gertie believes that one day she'll "bring him out a that block" (48), hoping that the man will be Christ, but secretly believing he'll be Judas -- "the Judas she had pitied" (139). When she finds she can buy the Tipton place and fulfill her dreams, her joy is expressed in her sudden belief that...

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