Bread Givers

Topics: Anxiety, Woman, Old World Pages: 5 (1954 words) Published: July 18, 2005
In Anzia Yezierska's novel entitled Bread Givers, there is an apparent conflict between Reb Smolinsky, a devout Orthodox rabbi of the Old World, and his daughter Sara who yearns to associate and belong to the New World. Throughout the story, one learns about the hardships of living in poverty, the unjust treatment of women, and the growth of a very strong willed and determined young woman—Sara Smolinsky.

After leaving Poland to venture out into the New World of America, the Smolinsky family endured impoverished lifestyles and countless hardships. For example, After an incident between Reb and the landlady (which made Reb revered), boarders began to occupy the Smolinsky family's place, the three sisters Bessie, Fania, and Mashah had jobs, and they could purchase things they could have never afforded. These possessions included butter, regular towels, "toothbrushes[…] to brush [their] teeth with, instead of ashes", and "separate knives and forks instead of" eating "from the pot to the hand as [they] once did" (29). Today, these are belongings that must people have in their everyday lives. To have them marvel at these material things further emphasizes the poor life they were so used to. In addition, when Bessie (Sara's sister) dolls up the house with lace, oilcloths for the table, and cleans up all the clutter in the house for a man named Berel Bernstein, the mother suggests that they cover up the whiteness so as to prevent it from getting dirty. The mother warns the sisters not to "fly away with [themselves] in fairyland" because "[they're] poor people yet…and poor people got to save"(39). Their family had to withhold any pleasures in material things because they did not have time to impress others. All of the family members' wages went to the rent and what little food they had to eat. It was not realistic for them to be worrying about material possessions when they worry so much about where to get the money to put breakfast, lunch, and dinner on the table. Furthermore, Reb was always fixed in being the matchmaker for his children. He always made sure that the men they would marry was stable in their work, and that could support the rest of the family as well. There was a situation with Berel Bernstein in which Reb asked that if Berel was to marry Bessie, Berel would have to fork up some money to help buy "a new pair of shoes, and everything new from the head to the feet" because he didn't want to come to the "wedding feast dressed in rags, like a beggar"(48). As the story progresses, money is always an issue when it comes to the Smolinsky family. They are always worried about how to make money through various low paying jobs, keeping up with the rent, and marrying off the sisters to men that can support them. In a way, one might deem their family as dysfunctional. In my opinion, they were just doing everything they could to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. It is evident that their family had gone through many obstacles just to merely stay alive. Although they often fought over issues such as throwing away potato peels, or Masha's severe self-involvement in her looks over her family, they still "functioned" as a family nonetheless, supporting each other as they all go through the same hardships.

The outlooks on life between Sara, who was of the New World and Reb, who was of the Old World, clashed throughout the story. Reb is too engulfed in his Torah to realize the pain the women in his life were going through while he completely focused all of his time and energy into his religion while basking in his belief that men are superior to women. No one was allowed to enter Reb's room full of holy books, and the sisters knew "that if God had given Mother a son, Father would have permitted a man child to share with him his best room in the house" (9). In Reb's eyes, everything magnificent and great seems to only belong to men, and that women are not worth enough to receive such pleasures. Since Reb only had...

Cited: Yezierska, Anzia. Bread Givers. New York: Persea Books, 1999.
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