These notes were contributed by members of the GradeSaver community.
We are thankful for their contributions and encourage you to make your own.
Written by Micola Magdalena
Instead of working, Reb Smolinsky spends the majority of his time reading holy books and spending the money earned by the other members of his family. But he is not the only one who searches for the meaning of life between the pages of a book. Thus, books, especially holly ones, are seen here as a symbol for knowledge and wisdom and are considered the source of knowledge in general.
Symbol for safety
The life the Smolinsky girls had with their father was not an easy one since their father refused time and time to work and sustain his family financially. Thus, the girls were forced to look for safety and support in other places since they could not find it inside their family. An idea transmitted through the novel is that marriage can provide the safety the girls needed and so for the girls, marriage became a symbol for safety and a way out from the life they were forced to go through.
A motif found in the novel is the idea that Reb was against the boys chosen by his daughters. In almost every situation when one of the girls found a suitable suitor, Reb would find one reason or another to not let his daughters get married. Reb was against the union between Bessie and Berel but he was against the relationship between Mashah and Jacob as well.
Another motif found in the novel is that Sara always goes and sells herring to save her family from immediate poverty. Sara goes a couple of times on the street to sell the fish and to make enough money to feed her mother and sisters even though it is not her place to do so.
Make myself a better person
Just as Reb is obsessed with the idea of studying the Torah and other religious texts, Sara is controlled by her desire to become a better person. She does everything to enlighten herself and to make sure that her destiny will be different form the destiny her father has. But Sara does not lock herself in a room and doesn’t wait for a superior being to show her the way. Instead, she actively searches for ways to become better.
Update this section!
You can help us out by revising, improving and updating
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.