Bread Givers Essay

Bread Givers Essay


Bread Givers Essay

One of the main themes in Bread Givers is the American dream.Yezierska features an immigrant family’s pursuit for a better lifein America. The Smolinsky’s, leave Russia for America with numerousexpectations from the new country. The essay evaluates the theme ofthe American dream as presented in the novel. In involves determiningAmerica’s promise to immigrant women, and how the sense of promisediffers to that of immigrant men.

The American dream generally refers to a happy and affluent life. Itis a social ideal that places emphasis on the need for materialprosperity. However, the American dream is a phrase that has diversemeanings depending on the individuals. In the case of immigrants,moving the American dream signifies a better life. Most immigrantscome from countries where life is unbearable due to poverty orpolitical turmoil. They are optimistic that life in America is morepeaceful and it is easier for individuals to become wealthy. In BreadGivers, Mr. Smolinsky’s acts as a perfect illustration of animmigrant’s definition of the American dream. After the Smolinskyfamily lost their business and had to leave Russia because Mr.Smolinsky refused to serve in the army, he takes to heart theAmerican dream. “And when everything was gone from us, then ouronly hope was to come to America, where father thought things costnothing at all” (Yezierska 22). According to Mr. Smolinsky, inAmerica there are no limits. He further states, “In the new goldencountry, where milk and honey flows free in the streets” (Yezierska9). It is obvious that he envisions a life where he will become richand content.

America’s promise to immigrant women, in specific Sara and hersisters, is that they become liberal citizens not bound bytraditional Jewish lifestyle. In Russia, or the “Old World” itwas widely believed that the significance of women in the world wasto make their husbands happy. For a woman to go to heaven, it wasexpected that she gets married and serve her husband. However, in the“New World” United States, there were numerous cultures. A womanwas no longer supposed to live for the husband. This is apparent whenthe daughters demonstrate reluctance to their father’s choice ofhusbands. They are more aware of the men they want in their life andfeel that in the “New World’ their father should not force themto get married to men that they do not love. An illustration is whenMr. Smolinsky opens Fania’s mail, and discovers that she is datinga writer. Once Fania discovers that the father opened her mail, shebecomes angry and tells him “You had no right to read it, it isterrible to have to live in a house where even a letter is not one’sown” (Yezierska 68). Mr. Smolinsky assumes that as the father and aman, he has the right to open his daughter’s mail. However, Faniarepresents the “New World” where she has privacy rights, as aliberal woman.

Unfortunately, the father eventually succeeds in the role ofmatchmaker for three of his daughters. They are married off to menthat they do not love and end up in miserable marriages. The case isdifferent for one of the daughter’s Sara, who relentlessly pursuesher American dream. She despises the manner in which the fatherforcefully forces men on them and how the family has had to makesacrifices because of him. She refutes the “Old World” values andemploys her independence in the America to defend her position in the“New World”. In the novel, Sara is referred to as “blood andiron” (Yezierska 32). This means that in the new country, she ismore inclined to live like an American girl and feels different fromthe sisters. She notes, “I began to feel I was different from mysisters” (Yezierska 65). Unlike the sisters, she does not tolerateher father’s demands to get married. She fills inspired to achievemore in life, and she says, “I want to learn something, I want todo something, I want some day to make myself for a person and comeamong people” (Yezierska 66). She is determined to pursue her dreamof becoming someone better in America, where she feels that due tothe new culture, she has a better chance of achieving her dream. Saradesires to become a teacher, which she pursues via working hard andstudying.

The sense of America’s promise for immigrant men and women hasboth similarities and differences. It is similar in the fact that menalso expect that life will be better in America. However, thedifferences are highlighted in the different in cultures between the“Old World” and the “New World”. Mr. Smolinsky illustratesthese differences by his continued effort to hold on to cultures fromthe Jewish religion, which his daughters constantly defy. He stillpresumes that he should be the one to decide the suitable marriagepartners for his daughters. He continues to think that women shouldwork and provide for their families. When Mashah fails to considertaking care of her family as her duty, the father is willing to marryoff Mashah. He notes, “The sooner Mashah got married the better forus all” (Yezierska 56). His assumption is that provided she doesnot provide for her family as is culturally right according to Jewishtradition, then she is of no value to the family.

Sara Smolinsky is the only “other”. This is because all thoughthe other family members adopt American culture, they eventually givein to the “Old World” values of their father. On the contrary,Sara is relentless in her effort to become a free woman and ignorethe Jewish culture she feels is unfair towards her as a woman. Being“other” is a part of being American for immigrants. This isbecause no matter how much they assimilate in the American culture,they still reminisce about their home country’s culture. Inaddition, it is not possible for immigrants to be fully assimilatedin America, because their struggles when growing up set them apartfrom American natives.

Work Cited

Yezierska, Anzia.&nbspBreadGivers. New York: Persea, 1999.