Conflict between generations is a common them to many novels. In the novel"Bread Givers", by Anzia Yezierksa, the clashing of wills of two generations is one major theme. We see clashes through culture, generations, community, religion,generations, and many others. The most prominent clash of wills is that of the protagonist Sara with her father Moisha or Reb Smolinsky. Some may say that these two characters clash because of their differences. Others might say that it their similarities that cause the clash between them both. It seems that it is a combination of their similarities and their differences that cause their clash and, in fact, binds them closer than
any of the other characters.
At the beginning of the novel we learn that Sara's father has nick named her blood and iron recognizing the fact that she has a strong will. It is Sara's strong will that causes the most of the conflict with her and her father. Sara gets her strong will and drive from her father. She is not like her sisters who follow the cultural expectations of early marriage, but she, instead, has greater ambition for her life. Sara plans to get an education which is not in her fathers plan for her life. Reb wants Sara to marry like her
other sisters, and live a "holy" life according to the Torah. Sara's will to educate herself, and Reb's will to have Sara married is what causes the conflict in their relationship. Like Sara's blood and iron will, Reb also is driven for his daughters to live their life according to the Torah.
It is the strong will of these two characters that cause their connection. While Reb is bound to the laws and traditions of the Torah, Sara is bound to the drive to be educated or make herself a better, more successful person. One incident that exemplifies the strong will of both these characters is found at the beginning of the novel. The rent collector for the landlord comes to the apartment to collect rent, but Reb does not have the money. The two argue and Reb finally hits the collector, who is Jewish, and
shouts, "I'll teach you respect for the Holy Torah" (p. 18). Reb is then taken off to jail for assault. Then Sara decides since none of her sisters are bringing in enough money, that she would go out and make some. She buys a some fish for twenty five cents and then hit the street to sell them for double what she paid. We see by this that Reb has an iron will when in comes to his religion and the Torah, while Sara has a will to make herself a better and successful person. He strives for religious perfection while Sara strives
for personal perfection.
Sara follows the orders of her father until she reaches her breaking point in the unsuccessful business he buys. Sara walks out on her mother and father, leaving behind all connections to her old life. This is her chance to start out in the world to attain her goal. This is a difficult thing for a girl to do in that time and place. She would face many bumps on her road, the greatest being resisting the old world that her family is bound to. While her sisters question her actions, they praise her for getting away from their father. Her sister Bessies says, "Thank God you had the courage to break away" (p 142). Bessie is praising her for not letting her father marry her off as he did her and his other two daughters.
A long time after leaving the home Reb goes to visit Sara in her small apartment. The sight of her father is something she had longed for so she was happy to see him. She thought he would understand her because, as she says, "He had given up worldly success to drink the wisdom of the Torah" (p. 202). When in fact he came to chastise her for not
accepting a marriage proposal. He feels this is her only chance to live a holy life and get into heaven. After her continued refusal and argument with her father Reb...