Saturday, 28 February 2015

Anna Yezierka's short stories

What are the moral lessons in each story and how would you account for their meaning to immigrants?

The Lost 'Beautifulness'
In The Lost 'Beautifulness', we are told the story of an immigrant woman, Hanneh Heyyeh, living in a small, cheap, run-down apartment. A lover of beauty, Hanneh saves up the money she earns from doing laundry for richer people to buy some paint, which she uses to paint her apartment for her son's return.

Hanneh proudly shows off her work to everyone she knows, including her landlord, who takes the opportunity to capitalise on the new attractiveness of the place and adds $5 to her monthly rent, which she struggles to afford. Although she disputes the increase, she is eventually evicted from her apartment.

This story is clearly illustrating the negative effects of the capitalist society of the USA, and the ways in which the bourgeois Americans exploit the immigrants. Hanneh deeply loves both beauty and her son, and the capitalist landlord takes advantage of that, by increasing her rent, clearly demonstrating that he cares more about taking the opportunity to earn more money than he does about his tenants.

Soap and Water
This story is told from the first-person perspective of a Russian immigrant, who specifies neither their name or their gender. By not specifying either of these, Yezierka allows more readers to identify with the character, implying through their lack of specific identity that the character could be anybody.

The character tells the story of how they attempted to do what Americans described as the path to success - they worked hard, with a low-paying job doing laundry for the bourgeois every morning and every evening, and they studied hard, going to college during the day. Despite all their hard work, the character is declined their diploma not because of the quality of their work, but because of their self-presentation - by working from waking until sleeping, the character has no time to wash, and despite the hours put into their job, they are paid so low that they cannot afford to live somewhere with a bath.

Through this story, Yezierka is illustrating the hypocrisy of the bourgeois, showing how they value appearance and presentation over effort and heart, and do not take other people's situations into account - the character talks about how the dean of the college berates them for not washing, saying that "soap and water are cheap," not considering that the character has no access to a bath, or time to wash.

Unlike The Lost 'Beautifulness', this story ends on a happier note - the character, after many years, finds Miss Van Ness, a teacher from their college who had always been kind to them. Just this simple act of friendship from Miss Van Ness is spectacular to the character - by simply making a friend and having the opportunity to tell their story, the character believes that they have "found America".

Stephen G. Lonefeather, "The Deputy of Allentown"

The Deputy of Allentown is told from the point of view of a retired deputy, watching out the window as the current deputy, Dave, is involved in a skirmish involving the girl he loves, Lilly, and a bank robber, Charlie.

The narrator describes how Dave was known as Midge in his youth, due to his short height. Dave was once a bandit, but quit his criminal life when he fell in love with Lilly, taking up the role of deputy sheriff in Allentown. The narrator then describes the skirmish he is watching, which ends with Dave aiming his gun at Charlie, shooting just as Lilly, having fallen on the floor, begins to get up. The scene then changes, and it is revealed that none of this has really happened; Dave, Lilly, and Charlie are children, playing outside with rocks and toys.

This story is illustrating the idea that the Wild West is the product of imagination; that it is not dangerous, it is a place where children can play with their toys and pretend to have shoot-outs. The moment when Dave nearly shoots Lilly shows the children's lust for danger, and the blase way in which they act this out suggests that they have never actually experienced any event like this.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Millie. The only person to do the post properly, in detail and with a comparison.