Anzia Yezierska’s Bread Givers attacks several social norms of both her traditional Polish homeland and the American life her protagonist has come to know. Clearly autobiographical, Bread Givers boldly questions why certain social and religious traditions continue throughout the centuries without the slightest consideration for an individual’s interests or desires. Sara’s traditional Jewish upbringing exposed her to a life dominated by patriarchal control; when she arrived in New York to seek out the American Dream, she found that once again her gender would stand in the way of such desires.
In spite of these cultural barriers, her mother understood Sara’s burning quest to break free from traditional molds: “… When she begins to want a thing, there is no rest, no let-up till she gets it” (Yezierska PG). What is the American Dream, and who are the people most likely to pursue its often-elusive fulfillment? Indeed, the American Dream has come to represent the attainment of myriad goals that are specific to each individual; while one person might consider a purchased home with a white picket fence her version of the American Dream, another might regard it as the financial ability to operate his own business.
Clearly, there is no cut and dried definition of the American Dream as long as any two people hold a different meaning. What it does universally represent, however, is the opportunity for people like Sara to seek out much more within their souls than merely remaining the oppressed female counterpart of an egotistical male is startling. Carrying forth the burden that has plagued women for centuries, Yezierska’s Bread Givers attempts to alter the historical concept of patriarchy within the boundaries of Western epistemology.
In the author’s opinion, the age-old gender molds are ripe for revamping and bringing into the present frame of consciousness. No longer are women to be made to suffer through an oppressive existence simply because it is mandated by religious; rather, Yezierska paints a new picture of a strong, intelligent woman who will not be coerced by the irrational expectations of an oppressive, patriarchal society. power.