One-minute review: The author tells how she reluctantly becomes engaged in a conversation about Jews with a prejudiced military man. He thinks because of her Irish name that he can safely say whatever he wants about Jews. He doesn't like them. The author waits until the colonel is about to depart again on the train to tell him that she is married to a Jew.
Quotes: “Don’t start anti-Semitic talk before making sure there are no Jews present.”
“ ‘Oh, hell,’ said the colonel easily. ‘I can tell a Jew.’ ”
“ ‘No, you can’t,’ I retorted, thinking of my Jewish grandmother, for by Nazi criteria I was Jewish.’ ”
Comment: A case study of a prejudiced mind and the futility of trying to change it with arguments based on logic. RayS.
Best American Essays of the Century. Editors: Oates and Atwan.