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Written by Micola Magdalena
Society and perception
One major theme in the novel is based on the analysis of how American society in general saw the Jewish community and how they interacted and treated the people who were Jewish. The second half on the novel focuses on these dynamics and how Sara is affected by the way she is perceived by those around her. Sara is criticized for her heritage and for the way she chose to live her life and the fact that she was Jewish made it easier for others to isolate her. Sara is treated warily and with suspicion by those around her even if they do not have a real reason to be suspicious of her and the way she is treated actually portrays the general attitude Americans had towards Jewish people.
Another of the major themes in the novel is love and in what way love can affect a person. The Smolinsky girl all fall in love with men with whom their father disapproves off so they are forced to give up their dreams of living their lives beside the men they love. The three sisters are affected by their father’s decision and they never get over it entirely. Sara refuses to let herself be influence by her father and so she has a better chance at being happy. Sara resists the temptation of marrying Max just because Reb accepts him and choses instead to wait for the right man. Sara finds happiness with Hugo and while their love is not a passionate, all-consuming one, their relationship makes both of them happy. Another type of love explored is that between Mrs. Smolinsky and Reb. While it is never clear if Reb loved or not his wife, it is clear that Mrs. Smolinsky loved her husband and did everything she could to make him feel as if he controlled the family. Mrs. Smolinsky treated Reb with respect and at the end of her life, she asked her daughters to take care of their father.
Duty vs. desire
The girls in the Smolinsky family are torn between their desire to follow their dreams and the knowledge that they are expected to listen to their parents. While the girls know that they could probably have a better life if they were to not listen to their parents, they do it anyway because they feel that it is their job to do so. In this sense, the girls in the Smolinsky family are very traditional and dutiful towards their parents.
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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.