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Assimilation And Resistance In The Joy Luck Club And Bread Givers

2108 words - 8 pages

Stage three of the immigrant narrative is quite similar to the minority experience, especially when dealing with discrimination and exploitation. However, a demarcation exists between the immigrant and minority experience where assimilation is concerned. These narratives veer from each other for several reasons: the social contract with America in regards to the American Dream and the ability of immigrants to become acculturated before assimilation can take place. Therefore, after analyzing numerous immigrant and minority texts a trend takes place whereas immigrants are more able to overcome stage 3 of the narrative more easily, whereas minorities are not.

Faith and belief in the American Dream can be directly related to the ability to assimilate into the dominant culture. For the purpose of this paper, the American Dream encompasses a mythic, almost religious, vision of America. In "2G," perhaps Sonia Pilcer says it best. "America! Everyone chanted the magic word of passage" (202). The symbol of the Dream entails embarking on a journey to the "Promised Land" or America, working hard in the ‘free’ country, and realizing a measure of success not available in the old world. This narrative gets complicated when dealing with immigrants and minorities. The symbols of America, such as the Statue of Liberty, interweave themselves into the American Dream concept. Primarily, it is the consistent faith in the Dream and the different social contract with America that enables immigrants to be more successful at assimilation than minorities.

The belief in the Dream in the face of discrimination and alienation is common in the immigrant narrative. It should be noted, however, that true assimilation for the immigrant typically does not take place for the first generation. However, it is the transference of the belief in the Dream that further enables assimilation to take place for the second and third generations in spite of hardship. In Bread Givers by Anzia Yezierska, Berel Bernstein realizes what it takes to realize the American Dream when he declares, "In America everybody got to earn his living first" (48). However, it is Sonia’s belief that success is attainable that keeps her going in the face of dislike from her peers, pressure from the patriarchy, and extreme poverty. "Longing for the higher life," Sonia moves away from her family (161). Furthermore, "great dreams spurred [her] feet" as she begins school (161). However, an education is much more difficult than she thought it would be. After her first night of school, she comes home feeling defeated and deflated. Instead of becoming dejected Sonia tells herself to "Stop all this sensitiveness, or you’re beaten already before the fight is begun" (164).

This determination in the face of hardship is seen again in the Yezierska short story "Soap and Water." While dealing with the harsh realities of discrimination from her professors at college, the narrator defines herself as an "unlived...

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