Literature Study GuidesBread GiversBook 2 Chapter 11 Summary

Bread Givers | Study Guide

Anzia Yezierska

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Bread Givers | Book 2, Chapter 11 : Between Two Worlds (A Piece of Meat) | Summary



Sara Smolinsky sits down to make herself a budget for her weekly earnings. She realizes that she has barely enough left after expenses to buy food. While daydreaming about food at work, she scorches a piece of clothing with her iron, causing her to lose three dollars (50 percent!) from her wages. This causes a rising sense of panic in her, and she runs to the cafeteria after work, driven by hunger. A man in front of her gets a large portion of meaty stew from a server, but that same server gives Sara a meager little portion. Struck by the injustice of this, Sara makes a scene, but no one seems to care. Embarrassed and angry, Sara leaves and returns home. The night is so cold that the gas freezes as she sits wrapped in a blanket and tries to study. There is a knock at the door, and she opens it to find that her mother has come all the way from New Jersey to bring her a feather bed and a real treat, some pickled herring. Sara's mother pleads with Sara to come visit her sometime, but Sara insists that she can't come until she finishes her studies, because she has no time between school and work. Sara's mother is sad to leave, but she turns around and heads back home soon after she arrives.


Sara has to face the reality of her financial situation after the triumphs of the previous chapter. She realizes she can block out sound and dirt, but it is difficult to block out hunger. With only 34¢ a day she will barely be able to eat one good meal. It seems like a lifetime of hunger catches up with her upon this realization, and as a result she doesn't pay attention to what she is doing at work and loses even more money from her carefully calculated budget. Sara watches men take more and be given special treatment yet again at the cafeteria. She can't understand why she should get less to eat when she works as hard as any man. Her understanding of the gap between the experience of men and women grows, though she is not yet able to consciously frame the injustice this way.

When Sara's mother comes to visit her, the scene is conflicted. Sara is overjoyed to see her mother, whom she misses and who brings her warmth and food at the very moment that Sara needs help. But though Sara clearly loves her mother and is grateful for her help, her focus is elsewhere. When her mother tells Sara that her only wish is that she would come home and visit, Sara brushes off her mother's request. In Sara's mind, she must temporarily set aside her family in order to throw her whole self into her studies. In her youthfulness, she doesn't consider her mother's age or how quickly time passes. This section of the chapter foreshadows events to come between Sara and her mother. Sara tells her mother she can "see [her] later" but she "can't go to college later." This hints at what is to come in Sara's and her mother's futures and sets the stage for deep loss and regret.

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