Anzia Yezierska’s The Lost Beautifulness

Anzia Yezierska’s The Lost Beautifulness

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The passage I chose to explicate is from Anzia Yezierska’s, The Lost Beautifulness. The passage is located on pg. 1254 of the Norton Anthology of American Literature 1912-1945. I believe this passage represents the main character’s and author’s view of the Depression-era individual vs. society. It reads as follows:

“I'm sick of living like a pig with my nose to the earth, all the time only pinching and scraping for bread and rent. So long my Aby is with America, I want to make myself for an American. I could tear the stars out from heaven for my Aby's wish."
Her sunken cheeks were flushed and her eyes glowed with light as she gazed about her.
"When I see myself around the house how I fixed it up with my own hands, I forget I'm only a nobody. It makes me feel I'm also a person like Mrs. Preston. It lifts me with high thoughts."
"Why did n't you marry yourself to a millionaire? You always want to make yourself like Mrs. Preston who got millions laying in the bank."
"But Mrs. Preston does make me feel that I'm alike with her," returned Hanneh Hayyeh, proudly. "Don't she talk herself out to me like I was her friend? Mrs. Preston says this war is to give everybody a chance to lift up his head like a person. It is to bring together the people on top who got everything and the people on the bottom who got nothing. She's been telling me about a new word – democracy. It got me on fire. Democracy means that everybody in America is going to be with everybody alike." (pg. 1254)

This short story was written in modernist from and seems to represent the hardships of daily life that seemed to overtake immigrants in the urban United States in the late 30’s and 40’s during the Great Depression and WWII. Her son is to arrive soon back home after two tours of duty in France with the Army. Hanneh wants a grand room awaiting her son when he comes home from war. This passage seems to state what was on the lips of most poor in this era, which was nearly 50 % of the total population.
I believe the theme is the concept of the individual vs. society. The individual being Hanneh and society seems to be represented by Ms. Preston.

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Hanneh wants to appear to be like the American dream in at least her kitchen, if not anywhere else in her life. She wants the American dream she thought was going to be given to her when they immigrated from Europe. She wants to be like Ms. Preston with all her wealth and possessions. Hannah even thinks that Ms. Preston makes Hannah feel almost like an equal in both social status and wealth. However, as we all know, she cannot and does not attain the same things Ms. Preston has.
Hanneh also talks of Democracy as if it is something almost magical and alluring. She has the understanding that Democracy is something that will be given out to every American as if it is something to hand out. The reality was and still is that equality is in the eye of the beholder. There can never be equality as long as there is a cultural divide of immigrants and those who were born here. I think this passage is key to the whole story and typifies the aura of discontent and hope in the Depression-era.

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