The Slave Themes

The Slave Themes

The prevalence of racism

This book highlights the issues of cult-like inclusivity, showing that within the boundaries of Jacob's Jewish heritage, it isn't enough that his wife convert to Judaism, they want her also to be Jewish by birth, by blood. When they find out that Jacob has taken a pagan wife for himself, they disrespect the union by burying her outside the cemetery.

The story begins with a man in the aftermath of an ethnic genocide, so the issue of race is highly contentious on either side, and no doubt Jacob's union to Sarah (Wanda) was troubling, given the recent mistreatment of his community for their Jewish heritage. In the end though, Jacob and Sarah are reunited, as they should be.

Religion and generation

When Jacob finds a wife, he changes her name to Sarah (Abraham's wife in the Bible has her name changed to Sarah). When they have a child, and Sarah dies, he names the son Benjamin (after Benjamin in the Bible, whose mother, Rachel, dies in childbirth). Then, he takes his child to the holy land of Jerusalem and gives his a religious upbringing before returning to his wife's grave to join her in death.

In other words, he is embodying his religious beliefs by recognizing the elements of his life that align to the legends of his religion. The reader ends up observing the generational nature of life, as Benjamin goes on to live in Israel, but also, the reader must also face the bittersweet horror of death, as they lay Jacob to rest with his wife Sarah.

Love and family

Without his family Jacob's life would be hell. This is partly to do with the fact that he lives in an unstable, sometimes close-minded community, but mostly it has to do with the fact that he tragically lost his family once already, in the Khmelnytsky Massacres. This book shows how Jacob found love in the most hopeless place, enslaved to the pagans, and how that love provided meaning to his life, right up until he was united with her in death. The fruit of their love is the living son who lives on as a lecturer in the Jewish holy land.


Jacob and Wanda's relationship mirrors the future of the Jews and presents the danger within assimilation. An individual loses herself, her identity, her name at the expense of another's comfort. If it wasn't for Wanda's extreme conversion Jacob's son might not have become as religious as he did.

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