The Synthesis of the Mind and Body in Cynthia Ozick's The Cannibal Galaxy

Miriam Sivan


Hester Lilt, like many of Cynthia Ozick’s female protagonists, is unabashshedly independent of men. A philosopher, European refugee, and single mother, she remains an enigma to the hero of the novel, Joseph Brill, who is both drawn to her intellectual brilliance yet repelled by her fierce emotional and physical attachment to her daughter.
The midrashic figure of Lilith, the woman who would not compromise her own sense of sexuality and autonomy and who paid for this independence with exile from Eden, is, in many ways, the metahuman archetype that graces Hester’s life. Hester answers to no man, yet she remains alone, and like Lilith, she is demonized for this by Brill. It is he who makes the negative connection between Lilt and Lilith; it is the reader who sees the rightness in Hester’s path, borne out by the later brilliance and success of her painter daughter, Beulah.

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