Bread Givers tells the story of Sara Smolinsky, whose life is almost the same as Anzia Yezierska, who is the author. Through Sara we see the collapse of a family because of religion and old world ways. Sara tries so hard to get away from her past but in the end it shows that your family will always be there, for good or bad.
Sara Smolinsky is the youngest of four sisters; the eldest is Bessie, whom everyone calls the “Burden-bearer” because the whole family lives on her pay check. “I knew the landlord came that morning hollering for rent. And the whole family were hanging on Bessie’s neck for her wages. Unless she got work soon, we’d be thrown in the street to shame and to laughter for the whole world.”(1) The second eldest daughter was Fania, who loves to read and speaks her mind. The third sister is Mashah, “empty-head, loves her own pretty face and spends out her earnings for clothes and drugstore accessories, to the scandal of her sisters, the disgust of the mother and the outspoken rage of her father.”(Turbulent) The final daughter is Sara who is the most independent and is searching for her own life, way from their father. “Reb Smolinsky, wise in the lore of the Torah, comfortably immured in the seclusion of his learning, calmly collects the earnings of his four daughters and chants of the terrors and the hatreds and the punishments from the Old Testament and the Hebrew writers.” (Turbulent) We do not hear much from the girl’s mother, Shena but know she revels in Reb’s holiness. The family structure is very important to Reb and Shena but not to Sara, she believes she can make her own family the way she wants. With or without religion.
“Four young immigrant daughters and their selfless mother are pitted against a headstrong, fanatically Orthodox Jewish husband and father. The outcome? Spiritual alienation, physical decline, loss of love, and even life.” (Avery) This quote really summarizes Reb Smolinsky’s parenting, which really wasn’t parenting at all. More so, he helped make these children who will care and pay for him for the rest of his life. He has in-graved the fears of the Torah and is constantly reminding Sara of the Old World, “It says in the Torah: What’s a woman without a man? Less than nothing-a blotted-out existence. No life on earth and no hope of Heaven.” (205) To Reb, “women are “Bread Givers,” serving men so that they may serve God.” (Avery) If there is one thing Reb Smolinsky doesn’t believe in, is true love and true love is the only kind Sara wants.
When it comes to who the girls want to marry, there is no winning with Reb Smolinsky. “The mother worries about marrying of Bessie, who is getting old. The boarders, whom the family hoped would want to marry the girls, only have eyes for Mashah, who spends all her money on herself. Fania is the first to get a young man, but he is poor and goes to night school. He writes poetry to Fania.” (Overview) A man by the name of Berel offers to marry Bessie with-out a dowry...