Bread Givers

by: Anzia Yezierska

Bessie Smolinsky

Bessie has been crushed for so long by the weight of responsibility and family duty that it is hard to determine any personality she might have had beyond that. She has no time for outside interests because she’s forced to work all hours of the day to keep her family fed and clothed. She also has no hope of a future escape because her father needs the money she brings in too badly to ever really let her go. Though it often seems, especially to Sarah, that this treatment has crushed Bessie’s spirit enough that all she’s capable of is mute acceptance, Bessie does in fact plan to run away rather than marry Zalmon, the fish peddler. However, that would leave Bessie on her own, trying to create a life for herself without ever having the opportunity even to discover what she might want to be a part of that life. Being left alone with so few internal resources very reasonably terrifies her, so she resigns herself to what little light can be reflected off of the people she serves. First it was her father with his holy light, then little Benny, the fish peddler’s son, whose eyes shone with something fresh and beautiful. Better to cling to the little light you have, she feels, than to risk seeking more and find you have nothing at all.