Bread Givers Paper
Jessica Greenwell History 109-001 Presented to Mr. Karantabias, University of Kentucky Due: September 16, 2011 The novel, Bread Givers written by Anzia Yezierska is a coming-of-age novel about a Jewish-American girl. This book covers broad topics of American history such as Americanization, how old world values clashed with new world values, and the search for independence. The novel’s protagonist, Sara Smolinsky is better suited than her family for America because of her ability to cope with change.
Throughout this essay, I will examine how Sara deals with her different perspective of America compared to that of her family and how she is able to replace her old world values with American values. I will also examine how Sara’s search for independence leads her to reconcile with her father. What is America? However simple this question may seem, it strikes many different answers because it means different things for different people. In the novel, Reb Smolinsky and his family differ on their ideas of the process of Americanization. “America will come to my feet to learn. Mr. Smolinsky believes that going to America is a process that will help him to spread his beliefs to more people. He taught his family that America would be a place of economic possibilities when he says “the new golden county, where milk and honey flow free in the streets…” He believed that taking his family to America would allow the women in the household to find jobs that would support the whole family, while he would be able to read the Torah and preach his messages. Sara Smolinsky differs in her opinion of what the process of Americanization involves.
She understands that in America, things are not given out freely—they must be earned. Her independence throughout the novel helps to explain her understanding for this concept. This understanding is exemplified when her family is unable to pay the rent and her sisters are unable to find work. Sara decides to help the family out by selling herring on the street. Her independence is shown when she refuses to accept the herring for free from Muhmenkeh. She says, “I want to go into business like a person. I must buy what I got to sell. Sara understands that in America people must start from the bottom to reach the top; no one automatically starts at the top. A lot of the reason why Sara has a better understanding of America than the rest of her family is because of her acceptance of American culture. She is able to better accept new ideas and change because she is part of the younger generation. One issue that differs between the old country and America is the idea of an arranged marriage. This was something that both Mr. and Mrs. Smolinsky had to be a part of that the girls did not agree with. Mr.
Smolinsky questions his wife about their marriage by saying, “Did you even give a look on me, or I on you till the wedding was all over? ” The idea of an arranged marriage was not included in any of the girls’ plans for America. They all thought that once in America, they would be able to find true love and marry that person. Another difference between Sara and the rest of her family is her knowledge of trust in America. She realizes that not everyone can be trusted which is why she always takes the initiative to do things herself. This differs from her father’s innocent old world trust.
He believes that he can trust anyone by simply judging them himself. This fact is exemplified when he is conned into buying a failing grocery store. He says, “How could I dream that a man was such a crook? He made me feel such faith in him, I was ready to give him not only $400, I would have given him $4,000 if only I had it. I would have given him my whole life. ” Mr. Smolinsky is so conditioned to his old country, where he could tell when someone was trustworthy or not. He is shocked to discover that in America people can pretend to be something else.
His innocence prevents him from being successful in America. The other women of the family do have different opinions of what America is or should be, however their opinions are altered by Mr. Smolinsky. For Mashah, Bessie, and Fania their ideas and dreams of what America is and could be live through the men that they fall for. However all of these dreams and ideas are crushed when their father steers away their lovers. The mother also has her own idea of what America should be; she believes that the man of the family should be the one who is the bread giver for the family. However Mr.
Smolinsky’s religious beliefs and learning keep him from working a job. He states opinion of how it should be when he says, “If a man wants a wife, he looks for one who can cook for him, and wash for him, and carry the burden of his house for him. ” He is caught up in the old world values which clash with what his wife has learned in America that men should be the ones who provide for the family. However, because Mrs. Smolinsky was raised in the old country, the idea of her husband working is shut out. She is more willing to accept old world beliefs because they are what she is comfortable with.
Unlike the rest of her family, Sara is able to resist her father’s overbearing ways through her steady resistance for old world beliefs. Throughout the novel, Sara is pictured as the more open one when it comes to change and new beliefs. Not only does one have to be accepting of new values, but one must also replace one’s old beliefs with these newer ones. This is exemplified through the dialogue between Sara and her parents when she disrespects her father, her mother states, “In olden times the whole city would have stoned you! ” Sara replies by saying, “Thank God, I’m not living in the olden times. Thank God, I’m living in America!
You made the lives of the other children! I’m going to make my own life! ” This shows Sara realizing that she cannot keep both sets of values—she must adapt to her new world. She comes to terms with the fact that she is going to be an independent American woman from this point on. Sara is able to reconcile her father’s demands for two reasons: because she is fulfilling her mother’s death bed wish and the fact that she sees the light in her father taken from him. In her mother’s last wish on earth she says, “If you’ll promise me to take good care of Father, I’ll pray in the next world God should send you good luck. Her mother also recognizes the fact that she is the only one who truly understands where is coming from and the reasons for why he acts the way he does. Sara also forgives her father because she sees that his fire within him is torched after being married to Mrs. Feinstein, where all she wanted was him to support her by getting a job. In his weakened and fragile state Sara was able to see him for how her mother saw him. This can be observed when she explains, “I looked at Father with Mother’s eyes. I saw in him only the child who needed mothering—who must be protected from the hard cruelties of the world. Sara was finally able to accept who her father was and by doing this she was able to help him. In conclusion, one can logically assume that Sara Smolinsky is a better fit for America than her fellow family members because she is able to adapt herself to change. She accomplishes this because she better understand what America is and what it involves. She is also able to accept new world beliefs and rid herself of older beliefs. More specificly, she is able to understand who her father truly is and accept him for that. All of these attributes help her to become a better-rounded individual which is best suited for America.
Bibliography Yezierska, Anzia. Bread Givers. New York: Doubleday, 1925. ——————————————– [ 2 ]. Anzia Yezierska, Bread Givers (New York: Doubleday, 1925), 9. [ 3 ]. Anzia Yezierska, Bread Givers, 9. [ 4 ]. Anzia Yezierska, Bread Givers, 21. [ 5 ]. Anzia Yezierska, Bread Givers, 76. [ 6 ]. Anzia Yezierska, Bread Givers, 124. [ 7 ]. Anzia Yezierska, Bread Givers, 64. [ 8 ]. Anzia Yezierska, Bread Givers, 137. [ 9 ]. Anzia Yezierska, Bread Givers, 246. [ 10 ]. Anzia Yezierska, Bread Givers, 285.