Literature Study GuidesBread GiversBook 2 Chapter 15 Summary

Bread Givers | Study Guide

Anzia Yezierska

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Bread Givers | Book 2, Chapter 15 : Beteween Two Worlds (On and On—Alone) | Summary



Sara suddenly misses her father, thinking that he would understand her rejection of Max Goldstein. As she remembers his sermons and thinks about him, he shows up at her door. She rushes to him, excited to see him, but he is cold to her. Reb Smolinksy berates his daughter for refusing Max's proposal and laments living in a country where "women are let free like men." This infuriates Sara, and she feels hurt and bitter. She lashes back out at her father, telling him that he has never done anything for his wife and daughters "but crush them and break them." He in turn disowns her and leaves.


The conflict between Sara and her father comes to a head in this chapter, and both characters unleash their anger on one another. Sara has a moment of insight about the similarities between herself and her father, seeing his dedication to and search for wisdom in the Torah as the same as her own drive for knowledge. She has a sudden dream of connecting with him, thinking she "was the only daughter of his faith." She fails, however, to understand the profound character differences between herself and her father. Reb Smolinsky does not see her rejection of Max as a sacrifice on her path to learning but, instead, a missed opportunity to marry a rich man. He sees things this way because he cannot see Sara as a person, but simply as a commodity to marry off, for the more money the better.

Sara's mistake is in believing her father would perceive her as a human being and empathize with her experience instead of viewing her as a lesser human than himself and thinking only of his own loss or gain—as a man controlling women according to his beliefs and needs. Though Sara is focused on her goal, and sacrifices having friends or seeing her family, she does not have the same blindly self-centered personality as her father. She also fails to understand the inherent differences in her own search for knowledge versus her father's study of the Torah. Her father is a deeply orthodox man who believes utterly in his religious convictions and in the teachings with which he was brought up. Sara's thirst for knowledge comes from a desire to break away from those very things, and both characters are much too stubborn in their convictions to bend toward one another.

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