America And I: Summary Of Anzia Yezierska's Experiences Of Being A Polish Immigrant In America
While reading “America and I”, you can tell that the author Yezierska’s tone slowly progresses as she explains her experience. You can notice that her attitude towards America changed a lot from the beginning to the end of the story. At first she was skeptical, then she became lost, but then at the end you knew she was right where she needed to be and she was about to find herself.
Yezierska begins her story with who she is and how it all began. Moving to America due to poverty in Russia, she was excited to be living in America. “Ach! America! From the other end of the earth from where I came, America was a land of living hope, woven of dreams, aflame with longing and desire” she states in paragraph two.
Yet, she knew what had to be done, she knew she needed to get a job but she understood how hard it was because of her language barrier. Being an immigrant, she dealt with discrimination from her first job. Which led her hopes down, “Just came to America. And you already think about money. Wait till you’re worth any money. What use are you without knowing English? You should be glad we keep you here. It’s like a vacation for you. Other girls pay money yet to be in the country.”
She had been working for a month for basically nothing, and then left with no money. Her thoughts on America had changed and she vowed to no longer trust herself to any “American” family again. This is where you can see her tone drastically change, Yezierska sounded as though she had nothing left for her, but still wanted to have a bit of hope. Then she went on to her second job, which she claimed was even worse. In paragraph 44, “ Day after day, week after week, all the contact I got with America was handling dead buttons. The money I earned was hardly enough to pay for bread and rent.” She then goes on to question everything about herself and America in paragraph 45, “Who am I? What am I? What do I want with my life? America? Is there an America? What is this wilderness in which I’m lost?” She later lost her job standing up for herself.
Then, the turning point for Yezierska… she got a new job and began an English class. Her teacher comforted her and suggested that she join a Women’s Association just for immigrant girls like herself. Yezierska’s look on America then changed, in paragraph 74, “ I didn’t know exactly what it meant -efficiency- but if it was to make the worker happy at his work, then that’s what I had been looking for since I came to America. I only felt from watching him that he was happy by his job. And as I looked on the clean, well-dressed, successful one, who wasn’t ashamed to say he rose from an office-boy, it made me feel that I, too, could lift myself up for a person.”
Yezierska, like any immigrant at first was hopeful for her new beginning in America. Throughout her first months living her though, she faced what America really is like and in the process lost herself. Yet, reaching out through others and expressing her true feelings towards everything, she later got to begin her journey and slowly find herself. She was finally beginning to be content in America and it was only up to her to change that.
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