We find that Eli is trapped in between two conflicting cultures. He, himself has assimilated with his Protestant neighbors and wishes that the Jewish man in the old, black suit would do the same. Eli is driven to the extreme by trying to get the poor, unfortunate man to change his attire consequently his identity. In the beginning Eli seems focused and put together.
Yet, we find that Eli is disoriented because of his wife, career and surroundings. He urges the man in the suit’ to take off his black one and put on Eli’s green, lawyer suit. The Black suit makes Eli crazy because it represents old, traditional, European ways. By changing suits, Eli is making the man change his culture.
The Black suit shows that the man’ is not assimilated, especially since all the Jewish, traditional, males wear them. It represents their isolationism from the world. The men that wear the Black suits have their own attire, language and culture. Eli is persistent on getting the man a new suit.
Mr. Tzuref responds to Eli, “The suit the gentleman wears is all he’s got. ” Now logically speaking the man can get a new suit but by giving it up, he is developing a whole new identity. The Jews that have come to Woodenton are survivors of the Holocaust.
The Black signifies the morbid colors of pain and anguish that these men suffered. They have been deprived of their freedom, religion and family; all they have left are these suits. The community is quite disturbed that some strange individual comes to glance through and shop in their town. The town’s people don’t like change. They want to avoid it all costs.
They are afraid of what could happen if their community changes. “Next thing they’ll be after our daughters. ” (302) Eli’s wife, Miriam agrees with the rest of her neighbors that the man in the suit’ should just leave their community. Eli is the only one that feels that justice should be served.
He is just a “man in a suit” she would say. Yet, Eli knows that this man has potential to be like the rest of them, modern so he changes him into a green suit. The new, green, lawyer suit makes the man’ modern and assimilated. It is a climax showing that the man’ is ready to change.
By putting on a new suit with color the man’ is separating from his own culture and changing his identity. In Europe the man’ would never deviate from his society and put on a green, lawyer suit. This action determines that the man is ready to revolutionize and adapt to his American surroundings. In the story, it is clear that Green signifies change and integration.
Eli and Miriam’s baby is born green. The concepts of green shows that not only will the life of the man in the suit’ change but so will the lives of Eli and his wife. Now that they have a baby, Eli would have to pay more attention to his family. The visual symbolism that we see in the character himself is that Eli is suffering from guilt. His guilt symbolizes his connection to the man in the suit’ because they both don’t have a place in society. Not this man or Eli seems to know where they belong.
Though, Eli can’t relate to the man, he feels for him. He doesn’t want the Jewish people to suffer because he, himself is Jewish. Yet, he knows that by helping these people he is in essence, helping himself. Eli wants this man to fit in so badly because if he gives up on him, he would be giving up on himself. “Damn it, Miriam! I’m giving this guy a new suit, is that all right? From now on he comes into Woodenton like everybody else, is that all right with you?” (312) Eli argues with his wife over this man that he has never spoken to because he feels .