I bumped into this sentence reading THE MAGIC BARREL by bernard malamud.

[it made practical the necessary without hindering joy.]

Can anybody help me understand what this phrase means? Contextually, 'it' seems to refer to matchmaking, but I cannot grasp the meaning of the sentence itself.

The following is the original paragraph. The brief situation here is, a rabbai has called in a matchmaker, and asking for help, he is talking highly of matchmakers.

Thank you.

He at once informed Salzman why he had asked him to come, explaining that his home was in Cleveland, and that but for his parents, who had married comparatively late in life, he was alone in the world. He had for six years devoted himself almost entirely to his studies, as a result of which, understandably, he had found himself without time for a social life and the company of young women. Therefore he thought it the better part of trial and error—of embarrassing fumbling—to call in an experienced person to advise him on these matters. He remarked in passing that the function of the marriage broker was ancient and honorable, highly approved in the Jewish community, because it made practical the necessary without hindering joy. Moreover, his own parents had been brought together by a matchmaker. They had made, if not a financially profitable marriage—since neither had possessed any worldly goods to speak of—at least a successful one in the sense of their everlasting devotion to each other. Salzman listened in embarrassed surprise, sensing a sort of apology. Later, however, he experienced a glow of pride in his work, an emotion that had left him years ago, and he heartily approved of Finkle.

  • It's very unusual phrasing and vocabulary. Don't copy this style. Jan 29, 2020 at 14:05

1 Answer 1


I agree that the "it" seems to be the work of the marriage broker.

Perhaps the slight confusion is due to the sentence order. Does it help when rewritten as follows?

[The work of a marriage broker] made the necessary [things] practical, without hindering joy.

That is, there was necessary work to be done and he helped this take place. But he did this in a way that didn't stop people feeling joy during the process.

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