Literature Study GuidesBread GiversBook 2 Chapter 12 Summary

Bread Givers | Study Guide

Anzia Yezierska

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Bread Givers | Book 2, Chapter 12 : Between Two Worlds (My Sisters and I) | Summary



Sara Smolinsky realizes that eating her small meals alone is worse than sharing with her family. As she stirs a pot of oatmeal, Bessie Smokinsky and Fania Smokinsky burst into her room. Fania has taken the train from Los Angeles and looks very stylish. Fania nags Sara to be more stylish and quit working so hard, but then she breaks down and admits that all her riches are meaningless and she's very lonely. Bessie also loses her calm and weeps about her situation, telling her sisters stories of how cruel her stepchildren are to her. Sara points out that these are the reasons she doesn't want to get married, but Fania urges her to come to Los Angeles, claiming that she's found a good man for Sara. The sisters go to visit their mother, but Sara has to stay home and study.


Sara has an important realization about life and poverty. She begins to understand how important it is to have family around even in the midst of poverty, and she feels very lonely without her family. When her sisters arrive, they push her to get married and leave her current life, while despairing their own marriages in the same breath. It seems that Sara's sisters cannot imagine an alternative for women outside marriage, even while they suffer terribly in their own. Fania even wants to make a match for Sara with one of her husband's gambling friends, despite the fact that this would likely leave Sara as miserable as Fania currently is. When Sara resists they liken her to their father "with his Holy Torah." This comparison between Sara and her father is not as misplaced as it might seem to Sara. They are both stubborn people dedicated to their studies, able to shut out everything around them for their books. But Sara has a much stronger work ethic than her father, who relies on others to provide for him, and she also lacks his intense religiosity and rigidity.

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