Generational Differences in Yezierska’s Bread Givers Essay
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Generational Differences in Yezierska’s Bread Givers
Anzia Yezierska’s most-taught novel, Bread Givers, "is an extensive observation of relationships in an immigrant family of early 20th century America" (Sample 1). Noticeably, one of the most fascinating qualities of Yezierska’s work is that, though most readers probably come from significantly different backgrounds than that of her characters, she writes in a manner that allows her stories to be discussed in contemporary terms, (Drucker 1) while simultaneously illustrating the immigrant experience. Particularly, this phenomenon can be seen in her portrayal of certain generational conflicts. In Bread Givers, Yezierska depicts the struggle of finding one’s self in life, a…show more content…
Most commonly, the first generation immigrant frowns upon assimilation because they are quite content with living the way that they always have. In contrast, the second generation immigrant has less problems with assimilating. This is quite understandable, as essentially, every generation wakes up in a new world. Therefore, the second generation tends to become more "Americanized." Often, they are coined the "divided" generation, as opposed to the "heroic" first generation who usually resists assimilation altogether.
In Bread Givers, Reb Smolinsky is a "patriarchal father," representing "traditional Jewish ways" (Drucker 1). Throughout the novel, it seems that he encompasses every aspect of a man embedded in traditional culture. In other words, everything that he does is rooted in the past, showing his first generational resistance to assimilation. In his constant refusal to assimilate, Reb Smolinsky becomes a symbolic representation of the Old World. On the other hand, his daughter, Sara Smolinsky has "breathed heavily on the New World’s aura" (Sample 1). Certainly, her actions throughout Bread Givers are consistent with the nature of second generation immigrants in assimilation. The contrast between their views on assimilation is clear as Sara says, "He could never understand. He was the Old World. I was the New" (Yezierska 207).
This generational conflict concerning assimilation is