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Being An American Between First And Second Generation Immigrants.

2313 words - 9 pages

For those who are born in America, the definition of being an American is not a difficult question. For first generation immigrants conflicted between loyalty to their native country and desire to belong in the new world, it is an extremely difficult question that never gives the same answer twice. Events and experience of the characters in the Bread Givers constantly shape and reshape their own definition of being a true American. For the older generation, the definition is deeply rooted in their rigid preconceptions and ideals. The younger generation's definition is more malleable, easily influenced by new experiences and outsiders' opinions. The struggle of both generations to reach a concrete definition can be seen through the lives of Sara and her family in Bread Givers. Because the book was written during a time period where progressive ideals had a great impact over social views, Yezierska's writing certainly included their ideals of the New Woman and assimilation. The book demonstrated the struggle of immigrants, especially women, to survive in America, and what's more important, their strive to belong in America. With all kinds of outside of influences, each member of the family evolved throughout the story, but only Sara made the transformation from being an immigrant to being an American. Through Sara's personal growth and exploration, Yezierska illustrated that her definition of being truly American is to be aware of one's self worth and individuality supporting the progressives ideas of the time period.Parents have the most influence over their children when they are still developing and even when they have come of age. Sara's father certainly had a crushingly strong personality that affected and continued to affect the lives all the women in his family. When Father prayed, "Mother licked up Father's every little word, like honey. Her eyes followed his shining eyes as he talked." He was adored and respect because he was the head and the only male of the family and the women's only way to heaven. Father never wanted to become an American for he was too caught up in the ways of the Old World and the Torah. Americans were not as respectful, as clever, nor as religious as those lived by old traditions. Representative of immigrants of the older generation, Father was too stubborn change his views. The progressives "believed that society was capable of improvement." Father certainly did not care to improve his way of life by working. With justification that he only needed to study the Torah and God will take care of him, Father never lifted a finger to support the family. Berel Bernstein, carrying the view of a progressive, told Father, "In America they got no use for Torah learning. In America everybody got to earn his living first." No matter what others would say, Father only believed in his ideals and dreams that he was toiling day and night, working for God. Because of his unwillingness to change his views and without a desire to...

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