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. He believes that he has given up his life for his children, so it's only fair they return the favor.
  • "Then I'm better off than you married people!" I exclaimed. "It's not a picnic to live alone. 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. What is interesting is that the father only sticks to his traditions if he can benefit from them in some way and he manipulates them to fit his needs. Before, Bessie was too important to his family since she was the bread giver, but now he sees an opportunity to keep himself in comfort and continue to be taken care of by his daughter, but in a different way now.
  • "What a sight I was in my gray pushcart clothes against the beautiful gay colours... I had seen cheap, fancy style, Five- and Ten-Cent Store finery. But never have I seen such plain beautifulness." p. 212
  • The father believes that children should show respect to their father no matter what. As the only child left in the house, whose world completely turned upside down when her father bought the market, Sara is at her breaking point and points out to him that he made a worse financial decision, 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 has always felt contempt towards being told what to do, and once she's away from her father she feels free. In this way, the theme of old and new worlds clashing is interconnected to the theme of dependence and independence. The father is woefully dependent on his daughter's since he refuses to work, though he would never admit that. Sara has seen her mother serve her father her entire life and knows that is not a life she wants to live, though her sisters have accepted it.
  • Sara is very proud once she is able to provide fine clothes for herself. To her, this is a great accomplishment. It means she has fought against her old traditions and has created a life for herself in this new world. For so long this is what she thought she wanted. She believes that her family will be proud of her accomplishments since she can provide for herself, though what she doesn't yet realize is that they still cling to their old wy of thinking, as much as they hate it. It's comfortable and familiar to them.
  • 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. In some way, being the daughter that chose to fight against these old traditions eventually lead her to being the one to care for her father. Her situation is ironic.
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