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Written by Micola Magdalena
One of the oldest daughters, Mashah, is portrayed in a negative light in the novel because of her obsession with her physical appearance. Mashah is criticized for the fact that she spends what little money she has to make herself look better and refuses to help her family. In this sense, Mashah is presented in a negative light and is criticized by the narrator.
While Mashah is portrayed as the shallow and selfish daughter who doesn’t really listen to anyone, Bessie is portrayed as the dutiful and loving daughter who will always do what’s best for her family even if that meant that she had to suffer. This is seen from the beginning of the novel when Bessie decides to listen to her father when he is against her getting married and even though his reasons are selfish, Bessie still remains loyal to her family even if that meant sacrificing her own happiness in the process.
Women as servants
At one point, Reb explains why women must work physically while the men can stay inside, do nothing and study religious texts all day and the reason behind this is that women are not seen as being worthy enough or intelligent enough to study and to devote themselves to intellectual pursuits. Reb tells his family that women were left on earth to serve men and it is through their years of service they will be allowed to enter Heaven. He stresses the idea thus that the only role a woman could have is that of a servant to a man and that women should not raise their voice and rebel against their male ‘’owners’’ because they would rebel against God.
Reb tries to run his shop for a while, helped by Sara and Mrs. Smolinsky. It becomes clear however quickly that Reb Smolinsky does not have the skills to run a business and does not have the capacity to interact with other humans properly. Instead of attracting business, he scares the customers away with his preaching and way of talking. Thus, Reb is portrayed generally as an obnoxious character unable to make himself be liked by anyone, a person generally hard to stand and like.
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Fania is interested in Morris Lipkin. We can infer that Bessie might be jealous.... not because Fania has a boyfriend, but because her own suitors have been rejected. Bessie is kept as hime because the family needs her.... and her paycheck.