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According to Soren Kierkergaard, a prominent existentialist, in Stephen J. Dubner's novel, Turbulent Souls, the protagonists, Stephen, Veronica, and Paul Dubner, are the quintessential "Knights of Faith".

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Jeremy Gelbart According to Soren Kierkergaard, a prominent existentialist, in Stephen J. Dubner's novel, Turbulent Souls, the protagonists, Stephen, Veronica, and Paul Dubner, are the quintessential "Knights of Faith". A " Knight of Faith" is the existentially perfect man or woman who could grasp his own freedom and create his own destiny. Despite the disconnectedness of the world, the "Knight of Faith" finds the courage to unify his or her world through an act of determination. Through much searching, the "Knight of Faith" discovers that man is entrapped in absolute isolation. Prior to becoming a " Knight of Faith" he or she must take a " leap of faith" into something higher and beyond the self such as into belief in G-d. The only way authentically to take a " leap of faith" and to escape the anxiety and despair that is the quintessence of the universal human condition is to choose despair, and to sink so deep into despair that one loses all commitment of family, friends, and community. When these are all lost, with absolutely nothing left, in a complete crisis, and at the edge of the abyss, he or she will be prepared for faith in G-d, he or she will chose G-d, and make the "leap of faith" to G-d. Therefore, he or she has created a unique connection with G-d and has conquered his or her fears, and the hypocrisies and tribulations in the world. Propelled by psychological despair and existential emptiness, each of the three principal characters embarks upon a quest for spiritual enlightenment and/or emotional healing. The novel begins by discussing the childhood of Stephen's parents, Sol and Florence, and after their conversion, Paul and Veronica. Florence's basis of her conversion and her quest for spiritual bliss began even as a little girl in her parent's, Esther and Harry, small apartment in Brooklyn, New York, above Harry's candy store. ...read more.


Also, he loved to whistle all the time. Unfortunately, "whistling was forbidden in his father's house. You might as well invite the Angel of Death. That, at least, is what his father believed"(9). Although his father kept a strict house, Solly obeyed his father because Any disobedience, however slight, made his father angry. And when is father was angry for whatever reason, he took it out on Solly's mother, Gittel, rarely shouting but unfailing choosing the half dozen words that would conjure up the bitterest tears. Solly, who loved his mother dearly, would have rather taken the strap any day. But Shepsel would never strike his children, for it is written. And if one were to ask him, Where is it written? It is written, it is written, he would say impatiently. The where is not important (10). Solly was never satisfied with his father's answers. Nat, Solly's older brother, always came home on Shabbat because he felt bad the others had to suffer Shepsel alone. Nat was particularly worried about Solly because "Shepsel seemed to have a particularly hard heart for him. Solly, was different; he wanted more out of life, and Nat knew that more was the one thing that could not be found in their father's house. As he walked home from school one Friday afternoon, " from the second floor window, a man in his undershirt shouted down to him: Hey, Solly, what the hell are you whistling for-don't you know your mother's dead"(12). His father always said whistling was forbidden and you might as well invite the angel of death; therefore, after his mother's death, Solly felt partially responsible because he always whistled. This guilt lead to the beginning of his bottomless depression. According to Jewish law, one should bury the deceased as soon as possible, but since out of town relatives would not be able to attend to the funeral, they were forced to wait until they arrived. ...read more.


It wasn't that [he] wanted him as a father. [He] had his own;[he] just didn't know him yet. But Ivan had awakened something else in [him]" an appetite for the Jewish wisdom he dispensed. It was kaleidoscopic, baffling, thrilling; it spoke to [him] as nothing ever had. Did it speak to [him], though, on its own merit? Or because [his] long-lost father had been nourished on the same wisdom? Or perhaps it was because curling around somewhere inside [him] was a Jewish neshama, a Jewish soul? ... The time had come to find [his] own [family] (183). So he followed the noise inside his soul, he searched for his parent's roots. He became consumed with the desire to know how his mother and father decided to become Catholic. He wanted to know why they stopped being Jews. He met a few of his long lost relatives from his father's side, and began to reveal his father as a Jew. He broke up with Abigail because her Jewish quest was over, and also he was more focused on writing anyway. He went to Poland to the shtetl his family lived in to understand more about his family but he still was not satisfied. While his search for his parent's past continues he continues studying Judaism fervently. Stephen's leap of faith and spiritual enlightenment is not as immediate as his parents, but through much pain and toiling he has discover himself and has untangled his family's roots. According to Rabbi Eric Bram, Turbulent Souls is not only the story of a son's individuation and journey; it is also the story of American Jewishness in the twentieth century. The connection between the country of American and its Jews has transformed significantly in the past century, Turbulent Souls is a proof of that transformation, as observed through the generations of Stephen Dubner's family. Jewishness has been both a basis of triumphant pride and of bottomless shame, and something to flee from as well as to embrace. Along side Stephen Dubner, Jews today walk the tightrope of the American- Jewish. ...read more.

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