Week 4 Readings

Bread Givers by Anzia Yezierska follows the life of a young Jewish immigrant named Sara Smolinsky and her struggles with a new life in America. Sara’s father is like many Jewish men of the era, very traditional in his ways and typically spends his days reading the Torah, he also holds the expectation that the women of the family are to provide for them. Along with Sara and her father, she also has her mother and three other sisters who are constantly working hard to provide and keep food on the table. Unlike the rest of her sisters, Sara often spends her money on objective goods such as beauty products and a toothbrush. Each of Sara’s sisters had men fall for them and propose, only to be rejected by their father. Her father instead found men he believed would be more suitable for his daughters this was somewhat frustrating to read because he was very controlling of his daughters lives and very seldom taking responsibility or blame for his shortcomings and mistakes. He often took little responsibility for his misdoings because of the cultural environment in which his daughters were raised and therefore they were taught not to question or talk back to their father. On one occasion her father even purchased a store only to find that he had been scammed. Even this is something that he does not take responsibility for. Sara decides to go and live with her sisters but after seeing the sad lives that they live with their husbands she decides to run away and make a life of her own. Sarah decides that an education is the best way out of poverty and begins to go to school to become a schoolteacher. During her time in school, she faces many challenges women of the time faced in the real-world including sexism and being socially outcasted. She struggles to simultaneously balance her schoolwork and her job. In this time, she is met by a businessman who she briefly considers marrying. However, he does not believe in the same things that he does, and she therefore rejects him. After this encounter, she finds that he was sent by her father. This news infuriates Sara as she views herself as the new world and her father the traditional old world. She rejects the idea of marriage and her family and continues on with college even winning a contest. Sara graduates and finally manages to drag herself out of poverty and live a comfortable life. She then takes time to briefly care and nurse for her mother before she passes. After her mothers passing, her father remarried almost immediately to a woman to who refuses to take care of the family the way her mother did and expects to live with luxuries. This is news that enrages Sara and her sisters. Despite this, Sara gives money to this new woman to take care of her father. Back at school, Sara falls for the principal who shares a similar love for education and children and also has similar ties to their home in Poland. Sara’s father approves of him and he comes to live with Sara and Hugo mainly because Hugo feels pity for him that he is stuck in his old-world views and way of thinking. I enjoyed this book because it really showed Sara’s drive as an immigrant woman overcoming so many challenges that she was faced with. It was also interesting to see the old-world views that her father, along with other man had in controlling the family and even though Sara was following in her own footsteps and perusing her dreams she still supported her father and respected her culture.

One thought on “Week 4 Readings

  1. I also thought it was interesting to see how the old world views played such a large role in “controlling” the family. I think that it was in a way controlling the family because the girls were held to such a high standard that they were not allowed a life for themselves, mainly because Father was so set in his ways that there was no room for change. An example was when each of the daughters found someone they loved and wanted to marry Father denied the engagement by making some excuse and then when he found them husbands (with many faults) he thought he found them the best of the best and was proud of himself.

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