Order#: 561516 Subject: Gender & Sexual Studies Topic: The issues of the women's status in society in The Breadgivers by Anzia Yerzierska. Introduction: You have, perhaps, never heard about a symposium on the subject, “Man-their role in the society.” Such discussions are always about women…
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As the mother, she gives protection to the divine reproductive force, male or female! In most of the societies, the ground reality is, a female child is victimized at every step of life, from the moment of birth, notwithstanding the fact that it is she who sacrifices at those interventions. This is the general backgrounder information about the life of the female, in societies all over the world. But in this modern materialistic era, the woman finds herself in complex situations. Alice Kessler-Harris, in her foreword to the book, “The Breadgivers,” points out, “Her woman’s voice found a universal audience in a generation that sought to locate its own identities more firmly and mined memoir and biography for the larger meaning of a materially laden world.”(xii) The problem is further aggravated for an ambitious woman. Harris continues, “…as the young woman yearning to find a place in the world; as the aspiring intellectual trying to figure out what to give back; as the isolated adult searching for community.”(xvii) To get uprooted from one country under forced and tragic circumstances and to establish from the scratch in a new country to find an identity is a tough asking. The “Breadgivers” by Anzia Yerzierska (1889-1970), a Polish Jewish immigrant, is the story about one such individual. Through her trials, tribulations, duty and beauty of life she tries to find out assiduously its real meaning. She confronts the normal challenges in the life of a woman and succeeds in finding the answer for the special challenges too. The important themes dealt with in the book are-- the perils of dependence, the pressure of family obligations and individual independence, and the evergreen theme of human life—the elusive happiness. These themes need to be understood from the perspectives of life of women of the era to which the author belonged. 2. Poverty is a curse and abject poverty on the verge of starvation is a double-tragedy for any family. The Smolinksy family is placed in the latter category. The daughters Bessie, Mashah and Fania are unemployed and Mashah is addicted to beauty-aids. Their father, Reb Smolinsky is engrossed in reading holy books and doesn’t work but faithfully does the work of a Jewish father—managing his daughter’s wages. Mrs. Smolinsky, with the onerous responsibility of managing the family, expresses her displeasure over the state of affairs. The situation improves as Sara begins to sell herring and other sisters find jobs. Mrs. Smolinsky rents out the second room of the apartment which helps to further consolidate the family budget. The cupid’s arrow strikes Bessie. The youth of her choice is Berel Berensterin. On invitation, he arrives for dinner one night. When the issue comes to the notice of Reb Smolinsky, he exercises his right on the wages of Bessie. In addition, he demands that Bessie must own the entire wedding expenses and finance him to set up business. Earlier Berel has indicated that he will marry without accepting any dowry. Berel is enraged at the unreasonable demand and counsels her to defy her father and marry him. She doesn’t dare and Berel is engaged to another girl, crushing Bessie’s spirit. The love entanglements of his two other daughters Marshah and Fania are also broken due to the obstinacy of Reb Smolkinsky and his rigid stand on issues. He arranges the marriages of all his three daughters that end up in failure and frustration for them. Sara watches all these
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