Literature Study GuidesBread GiversBook 2 Chapter 14 Summary

Bread Givers | Study Guide

Anzia Yezierska

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Bread Givers | Book 2, Chapter 14 : Between Two Worlds (A Man Wanted Me) | Summary



Sara Smolinsky receives a failing grade in geometry and a letter from Fania in the same day. Fania writes that the man she told Sara about, Max Goldstein, is coming to New York to see Sara. Sara doesn't read the whole letter and throws it away. She sits in her room all day, too depressed to study, and sinks deeper and deeper into her loneliness. In the evening there is a knock at the door, and to Sara's surprise and bewilderment Max Goldstein enters. Sara likes him immediately, as he is friendly and informal. Max tells Sara how he arrived in America with nothing and had worse lodgings than she in his first months. He went from selling second-hand clothes on Hester Street to moving to Los Angeles to be an actor, to starting the department store that he now runs.

Max takes Sara out to a vaudeville show, but she doesn't enjoy it. Noticing this, he takes her out dancing instead, and they dance well together. At one o'clock, Sara insists that Max take her home. She lies awake excited and wondering if he will come back again. She suddenly feels like the young woman she is, and notices that her face is shining with happiness in the mirror. After school that night, Max comes back and takes Sara out to dinner. This time, she is a little annoyed that he only seems to talk about himself and doesn't seem interested in asking Sara any questions about herself or her studies.

Over the next week of Max visiting, Sara goes back and forth between attraction and dislike. One evening she reads him a story and enjoys their closeness while she reads. But when she finishes, Max turns out to have been enjoying her beauty and thinking about his business, and not listening to a word she read. He continues to talk about business and tells her that she should quit school and come with him to Los Angeles. As he talks on about how useless an education is and how much more important money is, Sara sees him for his true character and consequently is repulsed. She rejects him and sits alone in her room, slowly realizing that she did the right thing. She goes back to her studies with renewed insight.


Sara has her first real romantic experience in Chapter 14. She goes through a process of blossoming and sorrow and comes out on the other side of it with renewed passion for learning. Sara's experience with Max is a continuation of her realizations about her classmates and the other laundresses: she must forge ahead alone to achieve her goals. Her sister pushes Max Goldstein on Sara despite it being pretty obvious he and Sara aren't really suited to one another. Fania, like most of the people around Sara, feels that being an "old maid" is one of the worst things that can happen to a woman. Despite the suffering of Sara's three married sisters, on some level they seem to think that it's better to be unhappily married than to be alone. Sara does not share this belief with them, and she also believes that getting an education and finding a partner are not mutually exclusive paths.

In spite of Max being completely wrong for Sara, his arrival seems to shake her out of her depression and waken something in her. On some level he is the same kind of man as her father and her sisters' husbands. His main care is for money, and he sees a wife as "another piece of property." But his attention allows something to bloom inside Sara that no makeup or lace collar could affect. She suddenly understands what many of the young women she works with have been talking about, and she lets herself be carried away by Max's attentions. She has new experiences, like eating at a nice restaurant and going to the theater, and she is able to have fun outside of the endless cycle of work that is her current life.

Sara only remains despondent for part of the evening after she rejects Max. By the end of the evening, she is already bouncing back, spurred forward by the experience instead of regressing into depression. Sara looks in the mirror and realizes the effect Max had on her is not gone now that she has refused him. The experience itself seems to bring her into her womanhood, and she feels more alive than she did before. The reflection she sees in the mirror after Max leaves is completely different from her vision of herself as drab and already an old maid, or with makeup on that feels somehow as though she is playing at dress-up. Her experience of feeling loved gives her new energy for life and is another important step in her determined victory trajectory.

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