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Benny, the War in Europe, and Myerson's Daughter Bella

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Mordecai Richler once said "My goal is to be an honest witness to my time and my place". And in the story about Benny and Bella I think he has met his goal. He tells the story about the war, he tells the story about what the war did to people, and when you read the story now 50 years later he tells the story about how important the development around for example psychological effects from war (post-traumatic stress syndrome) is.

Mordecai Richler was a Canadian author born in 1931 in a Jewish area in Montreal. One of his most famous work is The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz. He grew up in a working class environment, where it was important for young members of the Jewish community to prove their worth. Even though he left Canada over a long period of years, his homeland, hometown and personal view of the people around him, keeps appearing consistently throughout almost all of his novels and short stories, making the settings and the feel of the texts realistic and almost autobiographical even though the stories within might be fictional. Not so unlike the text about Benny, the war in Europe, and Myerson's daughter Bella.

Benny, the war in Europe, and Myerson's daughter Bella is a story about Benjamin Garber that in 1941 was sent overseas to take part in WW2, we don't get to follow Benny in Europe, in fact the war and what Benny saw there is mentioned in very few details and is mostly left to our imagination. That can be said about the entire text where people, and the scenes are described with many small details that tells us all we need to know without spelling it out for us.

The central topic in the text is the psychological effects that Benny suffers from after the war. People around Benny sees his behavior as scary and a bit odd, very much in key with the general thinking of that time period, we now know that Benny is suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome. There are a few secondary topics in the text, like the struggles there where in the Jewish working class society on that time. If you were Jewish and working class you were considered having lower social standings and you were supposed to work yourself up. Parents were expecting their children to bring them higher social standings and Benny's father, Mr. Garber expresses his disappointment with his son several times by comparing him to "Shapiro's boy - who is going to be a doctor". He also expresses great disappointment over Benny's experience with school, and that benny's teachers says that he should learn a trade, which leads me to one more topic that can be brought up and that are very current right now; that is that Mr. Perkins, Benny's class-master just declares Benny unsuitable to be a student, whereas, now, schools knows the importance of taking care of different kinds of students with problems, and make a great effort to take care of the different individuals that come through the system.



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