Sara Smolinsky and Cultural Pluralism in Jewish-American Culture

analytical Essay
1184 words
1184 words

George Schuyler’s article “The Negro Art Hokum” argues that the notion of African-American culture as separate from national American culture is nonsense. To Schuyler, all seemingly distinct elements of African-American culture and artistic endeavors from such are influenced by the dominant white American culture, and therefore, only American. The merit of Schuyler’s argument stems from the fact that it is practically impossible for one culture to exist within the confines of another without absorbing certain characteristics. The problem with Schuyler’s argument that Langston Hughes notes in his response article, “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain,” is that it assumes complete assimilation of African-Americans by a singular national culture. Fundamental to Hughes’ rebuttal is the allowance of a unique African-American culture extant of the standards of a singular American cultural identity. For Hughes, this unique culture lies within the working-class, out of sight of the American national culture. This culture, while neither completely African nor American, maintains the vibrant and unique roots of the African-American experience. Schuyler advocates cultural assimilation, while Hughes promotes cultural pluralism, in which minority cultures maintain their distinctive qualities in the face of a dominant national identity.

Throughout Anzia Yezierska’s novel “Bread Givers,” the character Sara Smolinsky goes through an elliptical journey from a rebellious youth appalled by the individual limitations of her cultural heritage to her gradual acceptance of her inability to escape her ancestry. At first rejecting her Orthodox Eastern European Jewish culture, Sara views the world in terms of a sole American identity. As ...

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...oreover, Hugo’s eager acceptance of Sara’s father and his cultural traditions draws Sara full circle into reconciliation with both her father and the traditional Jewish culture he personifies.

Sara Smolinsky’s culture, like the African-American culture promoted by Langston Hughes is neither purely Jewish nor American. As a student, Sara is not an American college student; as a teacher, Sara is not an American teacher. She is a Jewish-American student; she is a Jewish-American teacher. Her cultural identity is shaped by both worlds. She is Americanized to an extent, but her cultural origins remain distinct from those identified as purely American. Her American college education distanced her from the Old World culture embodied by her father, yet her return to the community marks the importance of—and the inability to remove herself entirely from— her roots.

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes how schuyler's article "the negro art hokum" argues that the notion of african-american culture as separate from national american culture is nonsense.
  • Analyzes how sara smolinsky, in anzia yezierska's "bread givers," is a rebellious youth appalled by the individual limitations of her cultural heritage.
  • Analyzes how sara is unaware and embarrassed of her cultural roots, but as she matures and faces the difficult task of assimilating into american culture, she discovers her heritage.
  • Analyzes how sara's assimilation attempts are thwarted because of the stark differences between her and the americans she aspires to be.
  • Analyzes how sara's cultural differences alienate her at a four-year college, but college enlightens her on the importance of her experience in the jewish working-class community.
  • Analyzes how sara's connection with hugo returns her to her cultural origin. he signifies a reconnection with sara’s jewish heritage.
  • Explains that sara smolinsky's cultural identity is shaped by both worlds. she is americanized to an extent, but her cultural origins remain distinct from those identified as purely american.
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