Essay 2

Assimilating to American life can be an extremely difficult experience for many Immigrants and their families. The amount of Bravery that it takes for individuals to uproot themselves and their family is unmatched. Henry Roth in his novel “Call it sleep” explores a Jewish family that migrates from Europe in hopes of a better life. Considering the circumstances in which David, the main character, and his family were living in, this is a true story of battling adversity and finding ways to persevere through hard times. The depth in which Roth articulates the challenges that the family experiences only progresses the story and the language that Roth chooses further develops the experiences of David and his family during their assimilation to American life. Roth does this towards the beginning of the book in order to show early emotion from David as he adjusts to his new home, Further into the book to show a difficult adjustment for David’s parents and how this affects David, and finally later in the book where David has a difficult encounter which only hurts his early American experience.

When David first came to America, he almost immediately missed his home country. When David sees a boy that he knew from Europe, he experiences flashbacks to when he was home. “Filled with a warm, nostalgic mournfulness, he shut his eyes. Fragments of forgotten rivers floated under his lids, dusty roads, a fathomless curve of trees, a branch in a window under flawless light. A world somewhere, somewhere else” (page 23). The descriptive language that Roth uses, with visualizations of life back in Europe, shows how David misses his true home, and reminiscing of his home land and he people that he knew there makes him content. In addition, the specific examples of Rivers and trees may contribute to David’s desire to return home, due to the fact that living in New York City it is hard to find the same amount of nature, which can be an overlooked aspect of what might be important to David.

Slightly further in the story, the adjustment to American life causes David’s parents to have an argument. David is present for the argument, which has strong negative effects on his mood and behavior. “David whimpered, eyed his plate and cowed in rebellion. ‘Take Heed!’ ‘Perhaps he better not eat’ interposed his mother. ‘Dontinterfere’ and to David ‘Are you going to eat?’ Trembling, and almost on the verge of nausea, David picked up the spoon and forced himself, ate. The sickening spasm passed” (page 74). Roth’s language shows that David and his family are still not comfortable and are uneasy in America, and an argument between his parents only makes the adjustment to American life more difficult because he does not even have comfort in his own home. Word choice such as “David whimpered” and “the sickening spasm” that Roth uses depicts the feeling that repulses and harms David while experiencing the problems that his parents are facing.

Roth’s language while explaining the aftermath that David experiences while running away after his harsh experience with Esther connects to the continued difficulties that David endures during his continued assimilation to America. “He had run and run, and now his own breath stabbed his lungs like a knife and his legs grew so heavy, they seemed to lift the sidewalk with them. Tottering with exhaustion, he droppedinto a panicky, stumbling walk, clawed at his stockings, gasping so hoarsely people turned to stare.” (Page 358). This passage by Roth further develops the struggle that Henry has while assimilating to America and the incident with Esther only makes it moredifficult. The diction in this passage describes the true fear and terror that David endures and this is another example of how Roth uses word choice to further develop the issues of David’s assimilation in the eyes of the reader.

So, the language that Henry Roth uses allows for David’s and his family’s problems to be thoroughly expressed to the reader. Roth does this by describing David reminiscing of his homeland, David’s emotions while his parents argue, and finally during his extremely uncomfortable experience with Esther. David’s story is one that holds lessons about the true struggle of Immigration. These lessons are extremely important for society to consider, because the struggle that immigrants go through should make people in America have empathy for those that changed their entire life to come to a place where they may not even speak the language or have enough resources to survive. Adapting this way of thinking will create a more caring society that will uplift those that created new homes for themselves in different countries. David’s story has a strong and deep meaning, and without Roth’s specific word choice, these would not nearly be well enough expressed to the reader.