The Slave by Isaac Singer depicts a heroic tale of a man named Jacob and his outstanding tribulations to overcome suffering, slavery, and his audacious efforts to seek answers within his own religion of Judaism. He encounters many demons, not in a physical sense, but rather a metaphysical sense by suffering through the agonizing accounts of unjust living and punishment for actions out of his control. Jacob has lost his wife and children, but has found a new true love named Wanda. The couple fights through a world of suffering to exist together in a world that is against their forbidden love, and they battle through a whirlwind of odds that are against them.
Isaac Singer makes his story apparent to the fact that Jacob lives a life of suffering, but he neglects to paint the picture in the reader’s mind of how Jacob’s actions have lead to the suffering and emotional enslavement of others. In this sense, I have chosen to take a more immersed approach to my paper for the unnoticed sufferer in this novel. I am very fascinated by the character of Wanda, and am rather absorbed in trying to unravel the suffering that she has endured due to living side by side with Jacob. She has not lost a family due to murders from the Cossacks, and she was not enslaved by a stranger to live a life unfamiliar to her, and she was not forced to lose her religion based on all these regards. But in a sense, she has lost herself completely for her love of Jacob.
Wanda has lost her identity by having to conceal who she is as a person, in order to live with Jacob and to be his lover. She was forced to act as a deaf mute to camouflage her religion, and more so, because she was not Jewish when Jacob returned to his homeland of Josefov along with her. She changed her identity to take on the nature of another woman, named Sarah. She had to change who she was, by not being able to speak, defend, and justify her voice as a woman. For Jacob had fallen in love with the woman he knew as Wanda, a woman who was able to voice herself, and she now had to live as Sarah, someone different than the woman that her companion had fallen in love with, and that must have been a painful truth for her to swallow to be alongside him. Jacob had known that she was in fact Wanda, and not Sarah, but she had to act as someone different, and live in the relationship with Jacob as a partner, dealing with the fact that she was pretending to be a different woman who he had not in fact fallen in love with. Sarah is a different person all together, as her preceding life living as Wanda.
Wanda was made paralyzed enough from losing her voice as a woman to not even be able to let out a painful wail from enduring childbirth, and she was greatly surrounded in suffering when she had to face consequences when she finally let out her voice as she gave birth to her son Benjamin. She had to suffer the claims made upon her by the residents of Josefov of having a demon inside of her because she finally let out her voice that was hidden inside of her. She made public her true identity of being Wanda, and not Sarah which eventually led further enslavement from Jacob, intentional or not, as she was trying to disguise herself for the sake of being with him. She did this to make him and herself happy. The truth of who she really is as Jacob’s lover would end her suffering. But she was never able to speak the truth.
After her childbirth, Wanda died. She had to suffer through the abandonment of her motherhood for her son Benajmin that she had created with her true love, Jacob. Isaac Singer does not go into great detail to describe the bond that she had created with Benjamin while she carried him in her womb. And also the deeper relationship that she has grown with Jacob, as they fight through their emotional struggles, and embellish the beauty of preparing for parenthood together. But she no longer has a chance to enjoy the one glimpse of hope for happiness in her life by experiencing motherhood. It is all ripped away from her when she passes on. She again suffers by not having a chance to even live the life she has always wanted.
Benjamin and Jacob both suffer from her death. Their suffering leads to further suffering for Wanda because she in return has to live an eternity knowing that they have suffered. I have come to this conclusion because Isaac Singer elucidates her character as originally being a Christian. She believes in going to heaven to look after the lives of Benjamin and Jacob, and gains an understanding of the pain they both had went through without her in their lives. Wanda suffers in death as she looks on to watch her son become a professor, but not being able to physically be there with him through his accomplishments. Again, she misses out on the life she has always wanted.
Another point that was never touched on was Wanda not being able to see her father, Jan Bzik, again once she had fled to the Jewish town of Josekov with Jacob. She knew that Jacob was a slave to her father, but he had to have suffered through the pains of the absence of him not being in her new life. Wanda also had to see Jacob question his faith and life due to the enslavement from her own father.
I understand it was the choice of Wanda to follow Jacob when he came for her, and to transform herself into another woman named Sarah, but the power of love gave her no other choices, and that was ultimately her suffering. It may have not been the true intention of Jacob to make Wanda his slave under the suffering of love, but the novel, The Slave, illustrates many realities of this being so. However, Wanda’s suffering seems justified when Jacob passes away and she is finally laid to rest with her true love as his bones are buried along hers. For this image makes it seem that Wanda is no longer a slave to the circumstances of Jacob by having to adapt to any and all conditions to be with her true love. After his death, not only was Jacob released of all suffering, but so was Wanda as she was buried along the side of her love, able to be with him forever, and finally fulfilling her true motives after having endured so much suffering in order to get there.
Wanda’s greatest suffering profoundly involves Jacob and not in an enslavement type of suffering from him. The couple had fought so long to take the steps towards ultimate freedom and escape the burden of being forbidden lovers, and to finally live their lives the way they wanted. Their freedom is only ever found in death, buried beneath the earth of a cemetery. Wanda was lost and forgotten in this burial place, but the same burial place where Jacob has found her once again.