4: Film excerpt, director Joan Micklin Silver's "Hester Street," 1975.
This is the divorce scene from the end of the film Hester Street. The film follows a young woman and her son who come to America to join her husband who immigrated earlier. While her husband has already assimilated to his new environment, the woman struggles to adapt to life in America. The situation causes conflict for the couple, and ultimately leads to the dissolution of their marriage. This scene depicts the Get-giving ceremony that is part of a traditional Jewish divorce and shows the emotional toll of the ritual on both the husband and the wife.
Suggested activity: Watch the clip. Ask your students: How does each character seem to feel during the ritual? Have students point to specific gestures, words, and expressions that illustrate the characters’ feelings. Who has power in this scene? Does the ceremony afford more power to either the husband or the wife? What might the consequences of the Get be for the husband and for the wife? Why does the wife have to wait for a period before getting remarried, but not the husband? What, if anything, about this scene resonates with your experience of or feelings about divorce in contemporary life?
Source: Hester Street, directed by Joan Micklin Silver (1975; Home Vision Entertainment, 2004), DVD.