Essay 3

Jake Brenner

Argumentative essay on 2 texts 


Due: 12/5

Everyone must have confidonts that they can turn to in the inevitable times of struggle which happen to everyone. These people help us get through everyday life. A particularly unique experience of struggle is the one that new immigrants face in America and their issues connecting to others. Immigrants may come to America without knowing anyone and must find new relationships with other people. Others may know someone in America, which they use as a way to adjust to American life. In essence, the purpose of these relationships is to comfortably assimilate to American life. David’s mother, Genya, from “Call It Sleep”, written by Henry Roth and the relationship between the wife and Mrs. Cooper in “What Must I Say To You“, written by Norma Rossen, both display how crucial it is to have a connection to others in order to have a happy and meaningful life. The individuals in these stories do this by conversing to feel secure in everyday life, playing roles in the household that conforms to American society at the time, and by relying on religion for their sense of self. Their actions in the circumstances prove that the characters in “Call It Sleep” and “What Must I Say To You” both depict the importance of connecting to others, while assimilating into American life.

Genya, in “Call It Sleep“ and the housewife in “What Must I Say To You” both connect or care for others to make themselves feel secure. Genya displays this by caring for her sister, Bertha.“‘Bertha!’ His mother brought in warningly. ‘Don’t!’ Aunt Bertha’s lips quiver rebelliously a moment she had reddened as though she had throttled a powerful impulse to blurt out something. ‘Come, you’re all worn out,’ continued his mother gently. ‘Why don’t you lie down for a little and I will make you some dinner.’ ‘Very well,’ she answered and lounged out of the room.“ The relationship between Genya and Bertha, both new to America, allows their care and love for eachother to help them feel at home and feel comfortable in their new home. Aggressively asking Bertha to stop what she was saying and then taking care of her truly shows the relationship that the two have and how much they care for each other in times of need. This holds strong significance because of the familital connection that Americans have that others around the world may not, portraying how their connection is a part of American assimilation. A similar circumstance arises in “What Must I Say To You“ where the wife feels the need to connect to Mrs. Cooper. “My husband doesn’t know how close, on winter afternoons, a woman is drawn to another woman who works in her house. It would surprise him to hear that I have already mentioned to Mrs. Cooper certain intimate details of my life, and that she has revealed to me a heartache about her husband. ‘But I think I’ll tell her’ I say, ‘not even a spray or balsam. I’d rather have her think us godless than heartless.’ My husband suggests telling her about Hanukkah, which with us is humor, because he knows I wouldn’t know what to tell.” The desire that the wife feels displays the connection between women during assimilation. The wife feels as though it is important to connect to Mrs. Cooper to the same extent that Mrs. Cooper connected to herself, indicated in the quote, describing the intimate details that Mrs. Cooper had previously expressed to the wife. In particular, this quote displays the significance of women connecting during assimilation because of gender roles and their place in the social hierarchy in different parts of the world. Mrs. Cooper connects to the housewife in a way that she most likely would not be able to connect to a man. These two quotes express how the emotions that are displayed and the connection between characters that contribute to helping others assimilate in America. Without this new made connection Mrs. Copper may not ever be able to feel at home in America. The same can be said for Genya and Bertha, who rely on each other in the difficult journey of becoming a part of American society. 

During the time period that both of these books took place, the roles of women in the household were very significant to their self identity and American society. Early in “Call It Sleep ” Genya has a loving interaction with David that reveals an important message about her motherhood. “‘I want to drink mama,’ he repeated. ‘I know’ she answered, coming down the stairs. ‘I heard you’ and cast a quick side, long glance at him, she went over to the sink and turned the top. The water spouts it noisily down. She stands there for a moment, smiling up securely, one finger, parting the turbulent jet, waiting for the water to cool. Then filling a glass, she handed it down to him. ‘When am I going to be big enough?’ he asked resentfully as he took the glass in both hands. ‘There will come a time,’ she assured, smiling. She rarely smiles broadly, instead, the thin furrow along her upper lip is deep and has a little fear.“ Genya in this quote displays deep joy and satisfaction for simply caring for her son as she brings this important part of her life from Europe to the United States. She smiles in a way that she usually never does, displaying how her connection to her son brings her true joy. Similarly, in “What Must I Say To You” the housewife is taking care of the house and is explaining her thoughts on the significance of her roles. “Later, I reproached myself. I am in the living room, straining piles of magazines, avoiding both the kitchen and bedroom. A woman, I think, is the one creature who builds satisfaction from the pleasure she gets from giving in. What might the world be if women would continue dialogue? But no, they must give in and be satisfied. Nevertheless, I don’t intend to take back what I’ve given in on and thereby give up what I’ve gained“ the connection between the wife’s emotions and Genya’s show how caring for David, and being a caretaker, connects her to women who are fully a part of American life thus allowing for her to assimilate. Whether these designations are right or wrong, they were a part of life at the time and were extremely significant in American society.

The religious aspects of both stories allow for the characters to continue their development as time goes on. In “What Must I Say To You“ Ms. Cooper and the wife have a conversation about the upcoming holidays. “ Christmas week comes, and we give Mrs. Cooper presents for her children. And since Christmas day falls on the last of her regular schedule, three days a week, we pay her holiday at the end of the second day. ‘Merry Christmas, Mrs. Cooper,’ I say, ‘have a happy holiday.’ Mrs. Cooper looks with interest at the baby in my arms, whom she had a moment before handed over to me. Suddenly she laughs and ducks, her knees her fingers fly with unaccustomed haste to her cheek, and she asks ‘what must I say to you?’ ‘You can wish me the same’ I say, “We have a holiday. My husband gets the day off, too.’” The instinct by Mrs. Cooper to wish her back a merry Christmas when it was wished to her shows how much religion plays in her identity. She uses religion as a crutch to get her through everyday life. This is because of the norms in the country she had originally come from. The customs that she is used to may not be acceptable in every situation in America. This interaction with the wife shows her desire to become accustomed to American life even though her religion is a huge part of her identity. In addition, in “Call It Sleep” Roberta explains a grievance she has with her father. “ ‘The world slapped him. In both chins but my father, the good Reb, Benjamin Krallman, was this way.’ And she began to shake and mumble rapidly and look furtively around and draw closer to herself. A figment crouching shot. ‘His praying was an excuse for his laziness. As long as he prayed, he didn’t have to do anything else.’“ This quote shows how even her father uses religion and something to fall back on. This allows him to connect to other Jewish people to feel secure in his everyday life. The connection to religion allows from Immigrants in America to feel comfortable and feel at home.

To close, the connection to others by immigrants in these stories have proven to be essential in adjusting to American life. The characters in these books attempt to connect by conversing in everyday life to feel secure with ones they feel drawn to, by playing household roles that make them feel a part of something bigger than themselves, and connect to religion as something to fall back on and be themselves even though they may not feel yet at home. The real issue is why they must feel the need to do these things. American society throws immigrants into the country without the proper tools to succeed. While the American dream is a great theory in concept, there are many problems with the way the country is operating that makes it difficult for immigrants to accomplish this goal. The bonds that they create with others makes this process easier, leading to a fulfilling new life.