5: Excerpt from Abraham Cahan, "Yekl: A Tale of the New York Ghetto," 1896.
Yekl: A Tale of the New York Ghetto is the book on which the film Hester Street (1975) is based. In it, Abraham Cahan explores the struggles of immigrants adapting to life in America. This excerpt, found at the end of the book, describes the internal conflict of one of the protagonists, Jake, after his divorce. On the one hand, he is elated to now be free and on his way to marry his girlfriend Mamie; on the other hand, he fantastizes about returning to the home of his wife and son.
Suggested activity: Ask students to note down the reasons Jake gives for being happy to have gotten divorced, as well as the reasons he seems to suddenly feel depressed. Discuss: Why does Jake see himself as having been defeated? What has he lost? Why does he envision going back to his old home and asserting his authority there? What are the differences and similarities in how Jake is depicted in the film Hester Street, versus in this excerpt?
Source: Abraham Cahan "Yekl: A Tale of the New York Ghetto," (1896) in Yekl and the Imported Bridegroom and Other Stories of Yiddish New York. Dover Publications, 1970, p. 89.