Bread Givers is a story written by Anzia Yezierski’s of a family of Jewish origin featuring Sara Smolinsky, which migrated and settled at the South Eastern parts of New York. The Smolinskys family with a dented financial state struggles to make a living. Their imagination of a sweet soft sailing life was only but a dream never to be fulfilled. At a very young age with almost no education, Sara found her comfort doing manual odd jobs. And unlike her father though a Jewish scholar who did not believe much in a woman’s advancement in education, Sara fought against all odds to achieve her independence through education. The storyline illustrates a generation that was determined to not only leave the poor wanting life experiences, but also forget of it by dropping their original names and adopting new sir names, ironically for Sara this was just but for a moment for she reclaimed her original name. This signifies her willingness to stand independent and free from any manipulation whatsoever. Anzia Yezierska brings out the theme of struggle for independence where we see Sara yearning the American ideal as a means to her freedom.
The concept of being considered, as a servant for men did not augur well with Sarah and therefore she raised her commitment of proving her worth and importance through standing alone without necessarily requiring the support of anyone. “ I’m going to live my own life. Nobody can stop me” (138). Sarah therefore manages mingle with her fellow classmates as well as her professors which she’d always admired.
Indeed freedom is as a result of identity. You have to be for you to be free. This concept is well analyzed in The Bread Givers. Sarah realizes she wants to be a person and on acknowledges the deplorable conditions in which her family was living in, she believes in herself when she says “ A job. And I must get it at once” (160). she puts up an iron face and insists on paying for the items she would later re-sell, to her you can only do business if you are somebody. She believes in the principle of ability not inability, learns to respect herself and believes the world too reciprocates thereby gaining her economic and social independence. Sarah’s determination to freedom was inevitable.
Sarah finally realizes she is strong enough to decide by herself. She puts up a spirited fight and manages to secure a job though manual. “ But let me show you how I can iron”, “ I was quicker than the big ones in my shop.”(161) She works with a lot of determination, manages to save enough, and later enrolls into classes. To Sara everything else is secondary; her priority lies in working hard on books. “ I could see you later. But I can’t go to college later. Think only of the years I wasted in the shop instead of school, and I must catch up all that lost time.”(171) we see Sara trying to get rid of the old traditions by craving for American skills. All this time she could not dare deviate from her goals and this led to her success and realization of her dreams. Sarah is later rewarded for her effort and determination to succeed by receiving a prize on her graduation. Her hard work, energy and trust in self can now be seen, the endless search for self-worth is no longer a dream but a reality. The sense of an achieving woman is not a tale to be read in books but an experience to share.
Unlike the perceptions of women of that time where they believed in marriage for independence, Sarah believes in oneself in order to become an icon, she sacrifices love and narrates it to her sisters who on the other hand were of the contrary opinion. “ Knowledge was what I wanted more than anything else in the world. I had made my choice. And now I had to pay the price. So this is what it cast, daring to follow the urge in me. No father. No lover. No family. No friend. I must go on and on. And I must go on alone” (208). As a result, Sarah is a divorcee a clear show of her position that she cannot be ruled.
The free and independent woman finally returns home after six years of studies and the joy is short lived after she finds her mother on her deathbed. Sarah’s effort to help his father not to rush in re-marrying after the death of her mother pushes her further away from her father. Her father marries a “ gold-digger” who would try by all means extort money from her step daughters including destroying Sara’s reputation by writing a letter to the school principal. After her mother’s death, Sarah realizes the part played by her mother in her quest for freedom and independence.
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It is through a spirited fight did Sarah grow to her dreams considering the environment dominated by men was not welcoming. A person “ exists” when you mature and principled not to imitate but rather people to draw lessons from you. The ability to stand-alone and be counted. This was a true test for Sarah considering chauvinism then, women were counted as nothing compared to men. Sarah therefore embraces a foreign culture to advance her skills and development. Luckily, Sarah had a purpose in life and could not rest until she would achieve her goals. On the other hand, Sarah appears to use her failures in romance as an experience of learning for a person willing to grow.
Yezierska, Anzia. The bread Givers-copyright 2003 by Persea Books Inc.
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