"Bread Givers" Theme Study

"Bread Givers" Theme Study

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  • "Has a father no rights in America? Shouldn't they at least support their old father when he's getting older? Why should children think only of themselves? Here I give up my whole life, working day and night, to spread the light of the holy Torah?" p. 46
  • But Bessie brings me every cent she earns. When a girl like mine leaves the house the father gets poorer, not richer. It's not enough to take my Bessie without a dowry, you must pay me yet.
  • "Isn't she a light for the eyes! And quiet as a dove. And looking up to a man with that highest respect as only women in the good old days used to have." p. 102
  • She is perfect. Me and my six kids will be glad to have a wife and mother again to cook and take care of the house for us.
  • "Blood-and-iron! How dare you question your father his business? What's the world coming to in this wild America? No respect for fathers. No fear of god...Only dare to open your mouth to me again!" p. 135
  • Hold your mouth! You're talking too much!
  • Why do you make such a holler on me over two cents, when you, yourself, gave away four hundred dollars to a crook for empty shelves?
  • When Berel wants to marry Bessie without asking for a dowry, the father falls back on his old traditional beliefs to make up an excuse to keep his daughter. At this point, it is not financially beneficial to the father to allow Bessie to marry, since she is the "Burden Bearer" and brings in most of the money for the family. This is an example of how the father uses his belief in the old traditions to his benefit only.
  • "Then I'm better off than you married people!" I exclaimed. "It's not a picnic to live along. But at least I've no boss of a husband to crush the spirit in me!" p. 177
  • Not very long after father says no to Berel's request to marry Bessie, does he go ahead and arrange her marriage to Zalmon, the fish dealer. He has changed his tune because he knows he can get money out of the marriage deal, thus making it beneficial to him. In appealing to Zalmon, he paints Bessie to be a subservient and obedient wife, which is what had been traditionally expected, especially in their old country.
  • Sara feels the brunt of her father's adherence to his old traditions when he reprimands her for selling rice for 10 cents instead of 12. As the only child left in the house, whose world completely turned upside down when her father bought the market, she's at her breaking point and talks back to him, eventually making the decision to leave. It is interesting to wonder whether she would have felt his tyrannical personality so abrasive if they still lived in the old world instead of America.
  • "In a world where all is changed, he alone remained unchanged--as tragically isolate as the rocks. All that he had left of life was his fanatical adherence to his traditions. It was within my power to keep lighted the flickering candle of his life for him." p. 296
  • Sara fought so hard from the beginning against the traditions of the old world and her father's belief system. It is at this point in the story, the very end, that she realizes she must keep those traditions alive for him out of filial duty. She has butted the traditions and made her own way, but unbeknownst to her, those traditions were ingrained enough for her to take on the care of her father at the end of his life. This brings the story full circle from the beginning.
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