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Bread Givers

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Main Ideas

Key Facts

Main Ideas Key Facts

full title Bread Givers

author Anzia Yezierska

type of work Novel

genre Coming-of-age; family drama

language English

time and place written New York City in the early 1920s

date of first publication 1925

publisher Doubleday

narrator Sara Smolinsky

point of view The narrator speaks in first person, focusing only on Sara’s thoughts, feelings, and perspective. Though the motivations of the other characters are occasionally discussed, the narrator usually gives only an objective view of their appearance and actions as they would appear to an outside observer.

tone The narrator’s tone is passionate as she discusses her feelings, life, and family.

tense Past tense

setting (time) 1910s to early 1920s

setting (place) New York City

protagonist Sara Smolinsky

major conflict Sara struggles to develop her own identity against the opposition of her father and culture.

rising action After Reb Smolinsky crushes Sara’s sisters’ dreams in the name of culture, Sara becomes more and more aware of her father’s tyranny and injustice.

climax After her father berates a minor decision of Sara’s, she can no longer take the constant scolding and restrictions, and she runs away to begin a new life.

falling action Living on her own, Sara works to become a teacher and to reconcile her need for independence with her need for her father’s acceptance

themes The hazards of dependence; the conflict between independence and family obligations; the elusiveness of happiness

motifs Inadequate providers; the oppression of women; the yearning for pleasure

symbols Internal light; solitude; a “real” person


 · As a child, Sara develops a crush on Morris Lipkin because of the words he writes. Later, she develops a crush on another educated man, Mr. Edman, because of the words he speaks in class.
 · Despite her mother’s doubt, Sara makes a profit selling herring on the street. Later, Sara will achieve her dream of becoming a teacher, despite her father’s doubts.
 · Reb Smolinsky’s choice of husbands for his oldest daughters trap them in unhappy marriages. Later, the new wife he chooses for himself traps him in an equally unhappy marriage.
 · The girls at the laundry reject Sara, despite her attempts to dress like them. Later, the girls at the college also refuse to accept Sara when she attempts to look like them.