7: Poem, A. M. Sharkansky’s “The Boarder’s Monologue,” 1901, trans. Israel Davidson, 1907.
Immigrants in turn-of-the-twentieth-century New York, like the narrator of Karpilove’s Diary of a Lonely Girl, lived in close quarters, often in unstable conditions. In this 1901 Yiddish parody of Hamlet’s famous soliloquy from William Shakespeare, a male boarder considers whether or not he should leave his rented room because he lives in constant dread of a domineering landlady.
Suggested Activity: Ask your students why they think the narrator of this poem dreads his landlady so much. Are his concerns similar to or different from those of Karpilove’s narrator? To what extent does gender impact the way they experience boarding? To what extent is their reluctance to move to a new room similar? Ask your students to edit this poem so that it better reflects Karpilove’s narrator’s experiences with her landladies.
Source: A. M. Sharkansky, “Dos borders monolog,” trans. Israel Davidson, in Parody in Jewish Literature (New York: Columbia University Press, 1907), 106.