Many years ago, people have immigrated to a new world where they can hope for a more beautiful existence, for the wealth, for the freedoms, for the better opportunities and most importantly, for the American Dreams.
As each new era of foreigners migrate to America, they face the obstacle of conforming to mainstream America. As “Hester Street” and “Eat a Bowl of Tea” portrayed, immigrants come to this land of opportunities with the hopes and dreams of a better life for themselves or their families. In “Hester Street”, Jake, a Russian Jewish immigrant who lived in New York's Lower East Side for five years, leaving his wife behind, and taking up with a new woman and earning enough money to support his dance hall ways. On the other hand, in “Eat a bowel of tea”, Wah Gay is a traditional Chinese immigrant who owns a club in Chinatown, and sends all his money to his wife back in China, who he has not seen in 20 years because of the inequitable immigration laws that had prevented Chinamen bringing their women into the country.
These immigrants fall within a lower social class, as a result they strive to conform to a more facilitating and suitable lifestyle. As they begin to build a new life in America, they face the process of assimilation. America holds an idea of a mainstream society; consequently those individuals not fitting this image are left with feelings of abandonment and insecurity. As a result, they feel pressured in achieving the American dream.
Let’s look at the examples the movies give us. In “Hester Street”, Jake, a self-made Yankee, has abandoned the traditions of his culture by cutting off his beard and earlocks, and he has adopted the mannerisms of his new country, including a new girlfriend who runs a dance hall. When his wife Gitl and son Yossele join him from the Old World, Jake was embarrassed. He looks down his wife because she retains her religious ways, wearing the wigs and scarves. He even insists on calling their son Joey and trying to modernize them both. Jake is a typical immigrant who wants to be assimilated as soon as possible, once they gain acceptance and recognition, they begin to look down upon the new immigrants coming into the country, sometimes even family members. Its ironic how quickly one forgets the past and repeats history in terms of the mistreatment and hostile hospitality a new immigrant once received.
In “Eat a Bowl of Tea”, Wah is desperate to see his son, who served in the US Army during the war (the mass of Chinese who had done so causing the laws to be repealed) ever settling down and continuing his American dream. He sends him back home to marry a friend's daughter, bring her back, take a good job and start a family. Ben Loy is one of the first Chinese men in New York to marry and bring his bride back to America. The old men, most of whom have their wives in China are thrilled. They see Ben's marriage as a new beginning for their aging hamlet. All these pressures, unfortunately, make the young...