Second Response Paper
March 12th, 2013
Dr. Von Rosk
The United States of America has often been referred to as a melting pot, seen by many detractors as a denial of the institution of race and ethnicity. Anzia Yezierska’s collection of short stories, Hungry Hearts, delves deeper into the counterargument against the melting pot theory with two stories about two fearless yet vulnerable women: Sophie Sapinsky and Hannah Hayyeh. Their respective stories, “My Own People” and “The Lost Beautifulness” examine the oppressive institutions of ethnicity and class against the background of New York City, an amalgam of many cultures. Each experience these women encounter shapes their character, as they are exposed to the many prejudices that come with the double-bind oppression thrust upon them.
“The Lost Beautifulness” opens with the naively optimistic Hannah Hayyeh marveling at her newly renovated kitchen, which she has remodeled for the return of her son Aby from the military. She painted her heart out of this kitchen, inspired by the Stuyvesant Square mansion of her boss, Mrs. Preston. Hannah’s dreams are belittled by her husband and the neighbors, who believe that social mobility is beyond their grasp. Neighbors rant, “she’s always on fire with the wonders of her son.” (Yezierska 2) Nevertheless, Hannah’s optimism shines, as “shining up the house for Aby is [her] only pleasure.” (Yezierska 1) Mrs. Preston sees Hannah’s kitchen and the positive feedback is immediate. The landlord, Benjamin Rosenblatt, is not so moved by her kitchen, and proceeds to raise Hannah’s rent. Mrs. Preston offers her charity, but Hannah absconds her naivete and rejects her offer. “I want no charity! You think maybe I came to beg? No--I want justice!” (Yezierska 7) She sees right through Mrs. Preston--that her offer is out of pity and not out of gratitude. This offers a classic example of the rich feeling obligated to help out the poor, and not doing so out of sympathy....