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Yekl and the Imported Bridegroom and Other Stories of the New York Ghetto Characters & Character Analysis

This Study Guide consists of approximately 74 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Yekl and the Imported Bridegroom and Other Stories of the New York Ghetto.
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Yekl and the Imported Bridegroom and Other Stories of the New York Ghetto Summary & Study Guide Description

Yekl and the Imported Bridegroom and Other Stories of the New York Ghetto Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on Yekl and the Imported Bridegroom and Other Stories of the New York Ghetto by Abraham Cahan.

Characters

Jakeappears in Yekl

Jake's original name is Yekl, but he changes it when he moves to America. He first lives in Boston before relocating to New York City. When Fanny asks Jake if he is going to Joe's dance class tonight, Jake snaps at her. Jake meets Fanny on the street after work and reaffirms that he is not going to Joe's dance school. Jake plans to tell Joe that he will not sell any ball tickets tonight and scurries down Suffolk Street to Joe's where everyone greets Jake. Later, as Jake dances with Mamie, Miss Jacobs and Fanny argue about who is jealous. Jakes asks Fanny to dance when he sees her sitting sadly by herself. They argue because Fanny is jealous of Mamie, but Fanny dances with Jake. Fanny sits beside Mamie, and Jake joins the two rivals. Jake buys sodas for both ladies and leaves about an hour later with Mamie and Fanny, as he thinks about putting a deposit on a ticket to New York.

Jake never fully abandons the idea of bringing his wife and son to New York though pricing tickets becomes more of a routine than an actual intention. Although Jake often mentioned his family in Boston, he avoids all references to them while he is in New York. Jake is tender in his thoughts toward his wife though he does not think of his New York girlfriends tenderly. Jake realizes that it is impossible to import his family and continue his present life style. Jake feels like he should weep for his absent family but he does not. He feels desolate, like an orphan, when he realizes that he is unable to recall his son's features. Jake returns to his lodgings, planning to say his prayers, but he realizes that he cannot remember his prayers by heart and, after convincing the landlady of his sincerity, borrows her prayer book. Jake waits at the Immigration Bureau on Ellis Island, excited for his family to arrive. When he finally sees Gitl, his wife, he is ashamed of her uncouth and un-American appearance. He refuses to hug her when she is released, causing his son, Yossele, to kick him. Gitl compliments Jake, but Jake is ashamed of Gitl and Yossele.

Jake yells at Gitl when she speaks Russian. Jake grows accustomed to being seen as a married man. Though Jake is relieved when Fanny finds a different job, he also misses Fanny. Jake becomes attached to Yossele who he calls Little Joey. Mr. Bernstein boards with Jake and his family. When Mr. Bernstein wishes for a son like Yossele, Jake teases him about his clandestine visits to a marriage broker. After dinner, Mamie arrives, and Jake introduces Mamie to Gitl. When Mamie leaves, Gitl asks about Mamie's finery, and Jake explains that Mamie is probably going to a ball. Jake reassures his wife that he and Mamie worked together and Mamie's visit was only to inquire about a job. Jake is miserable after Mamie's visit and falls asleep. The next day, Jake stops by Mamie's house after work, and they argue. The more Jake thinks about Mamie, the more irritable he grows with Gitl. Jake alternates between indifference and affection for Yossele. After Fanny tells Gitl about Jake's true relationship with Mamie and Mrs. Kavarsky arranges Gitl's hair according to the American fashion, Jake is disgusted with his wife's appearance. When Gitl comes out of the bedroom to yell at Jake, Jake denies her accusations. Jake leaves after telling Mrs. Kavarsky to mind her own business. On the street, Jake worries about where he will spend the night. He decides to leave Gitl and considers kidnapping his son. Jake wonders if Mamie will run away with him and heads toward her house.

Jake and Mamie go to the roof to talk where Jake nervously starts sobbing and tells Mamie that someone told Gitl that he secretly sees Mamie. Jake admits that he did not realize how much he cared for Mamie until Gitl came to America. He claims that his mother convinced him to act contrary to his will. Jake assures Mamie that he likes her better than Fanny or any of the other girls. Mamie tells him to go home to his wife and son because it is too late. Jake considers suicide and tells Mamie that she will be sorry. He promises to divorce Gitl and marry Mamie since she is the only one he cares for. Mamie checks her accounts, revealing that she has a lot of money set aside. Although Jake asks Mamie to run away with him, Mamie suggests that Jake hide in Philadelphia with Mamie's married sister until the divorce is settled. After he is divorced, Jake and Mamie will marry and open a dance school. Jake agrees though his heart hurts to part with his son. Mamie sends Jake to Philadelphia on a midnight train.

Jake and Gitl come face to face for the first time since his flight and the last time as husband and wife in January. Jake sees Gitl's American appearance as defiance and her failure to bring Yossele to the proceedings as unnecessary malice. The rabbi obtains the divorcees' agreement and explains the additional procedures. Jake and Gitl are divorced, and the rabbi hands the paperwork to Gitl who faints. Jake leaves before Gitl recovers. Jake and Mamie take a carriage to the mayor's office to be married. Jake dreads the ceremony, thinks of how Gitl and his neighbors must be mocking him, and considers returning to Gitl to impose his authority as Yossele's father and demand that Gitl mind her household duties. Jake wishes that the trip to the mayor's office could be prolonged indefinitely, but the carriage nears the courthouse quickly.

Asriel Stroonappears in The Imported Bridegroom

Asriel Stroon is a well-to-do, retired merchant. He is Flora's father. Asriel insists that Flora marry a God-fearing businessman, such as a merchant. Asriel prays as it is the anniversary of his father's death and Asriel is a very pious. After dinner, Asriel and Tamara, the widow of a rabbi who lives with Asriel and Flora, say grace, but Flora resumes reading her novel, causing her father to yells at her for the "Gentile nastiness." Asriel announces that he intends to take a trip to Pravly, his birthplace, after Passover. When Tamara asks if Asriel will take Flora with him, he answers in the negative since he worries that his townspeople will mock Flora's gentile mannerisms. Besides, he wants to be in his hometown as he was when he was young. Asriel grows fearful of death after his retirement. Though he usually drowses during synagogue, he first stays awake to hear the sermon of a newly landed preacher. This sermon convinces Asriel that he is very old and very wicked. He grows his side locks and begins reading Psalms, growing more pious daily until he begins growing homesick. Asriel left Pravly thirty-five years ago. He finds America inferior to Pravly only in its tasteless piety.

Asriel arrives in Pravly and admires the beautiful scenery, recalling places from his past. He doubts his own identity as he contemplates Flora's photograph and thinks of events from his childhood. Asriel is displeased with the presence of a Gentile, Catholic Church in his town. He still feels like Asriel Thirteen Hairs, his nickname when he was a boy. Few people recognize Asriel. He encounters his old crony, Shmulke, and Aunt Sarah-Rachael who does not recognize him. Asriel exclaims that she does not understand anything. Asriel's first Sabbath in his native town is memorable. Reb Lippe is too proud to allow Asriel to read the third section of the Pentaleuch and auctions off the sections instead. Although Asriel places the winning bid, Reb Lippe reads. Asriel causes a ruckus, claiming that he is willing to pay any amount for the honor of reading. An older rabbi admonishes Asriel who apologizes to the congregation. After leaving the synagogue, Asriel no longer sees Pravly as poetic; he sees only a medium to fill with the rays of his financial success, and he determines that he will show them all who Asriel Stroon is. Asriel formulates a plot during the afternoon sermon about marrying one's daughters. Asriel discusses the prodigy with the innkeeper early that evening.

Asriel and Reb Lippe combat their purses again over the right to call Shaya son-in-law. An auction is held with Shaya as the prize, and Asriel wins. The next day, Asriel visits the graves of his family and realizes that most of the people he knew in his youth are now buried. Asriel makes peace with Reb Lippe before leaving Pravly, claiming that Reb Lippe will get another prodigy but there are none in America. Asriel feels that he is going home as he nears New York. Asriel praises America and Flora to Shaya. Shaya agrees to be Asriel's Kaddish and observe the anniversary of Asriel's death after he is gone. After landing in America, Asriel takes Shaya shopping to obtain smart clothes before presenting him to Flora. Asriel greets his daughter and tells her he has brought her a present: a bridegroom. He introduces Shaya before leaving them alone. Asriel assures Flora that Shaya will not be a rabbi though he will be pious and study the Talmud his entire life. Asriel and Tamara admire Shaya's piety. Tamara tells Asriel that Flora does not know what a treasure God has sent her, but Asriel insists that she will before long.

On the next Sabbath, Asriel returns home from the synagogue at the head of a dozen Talmudists who offer blessings on the marriage between Shaya and Flora as well as hopes for children. Flora hides in her room, fearing what her friends would say about her betrothed. When Asriel humbly begs Flora to join everyone downstairs, she agrees because of his uncharacteristic humility. Asriel and Tamara are too absorbed in the debate to congratulate themselves on Flora's interest. Asriel refuses to send Shaya away even if she does not agree to the match because he is fond of the boy. Asriel fires Shaya's English teacher for growing "too thick" with the boy. Shaya tells Asriel that Flora has agreed to be his sweetheart, causing the old man to praise God and rejoice. Four months after Flora and Shaya's betrothal is celebrated, Asriel enters Flora's room and asks for Shaya. Asriel proudly watches Shaya singing over a volume of the Talmud. Everyone praises Asriel and his prodigy. Asriel begins to worry about Shaya's merits after overhearing Reb Tzalel make comments about the boy.

One day as Asriel sits in the synagogue talking to Reb Tzalel, Reb Tzalel admits that he needs to tell Asriel something that has been lying heavy on his heart: Shaya is becoming an atheist and leading others to sin. Reb Tzalel saw Shaya smoking a cigarette on the Sabbath last week. After Asriel accuses the rabbi of jealousy, Reb Tzalel blames Asriel for bringing Shaya to America to ruin him when Shaya would have become a great man if he had stayed in Pravly. Asriel rushes out of the synagogue as he begins to see Shaya as sacrilegious. He is rude to Shaya and Flora at home, causing Flora to worry that her father has discovered Shaya's studying to become a doctor. Asriel learns Shaya has not been to Souvalk Synagogue in weeks and begins to shadow Shaya who he no longer sees as Flora's bridegroom or a prodigy but as a sneaking atheist. He watches Shaya and his former teacher in ungodly pursuits and follows them to the "evil" library. When Shaya and the teacher enter a Christian restaurant, Asriel follows them and accuses them of eating pork before leaving angrily. Asriel returns home and yells at Flora for playing the piano. He threatens to kill Flora and Shaya is Shaya ever enters his home again, forbidding Flora to marry Shaya. Flora insists that she cannot live without Shaya and sneaks out of the house as Asriel continues his rant. When Asriel realizes that Flora has left, he searches the city for her only to return home to find her in her bedroom. When Flora admits that she has married Shaya in a courthouse, Asriel is upset that they married like Gentiles, but he realizes that it can be fixed by a Jewish ceremony which will be held the next day. Asriel believes that America ruined Shaya. Asriel tells Tamara that he is alone and ruined. He wants to marry Tamara, give Tamara half of his property, sell the rest, and live out the rest of his days in the Holy Land with Tamara.

Rouvke Arbelappears in A Providential Match

His townspeople in Kropovetz still call him Rouvke Arbel. Arbel, or sleeve, is a reference to his job, but that was four years ago, and Rouvke is greatly changed. Although his face is still the same, his mother recently saw a picture of him and believed him to be a Gentile. He pays his bills promptly and is punctual. When he moves to America, Rouvke changes his name to Robert Friedman, and he is proud and arrogant. The feminine aspect of Rouvke's life is missing until recently. In Kropovetz, he works for Peretz and is infatuated with Peretz's only daughter, Hanele. Rouvke is sad when Feive, the matchmaker, arrives to negotiate Hanele's marriage; however, the negotiations are called off and many suitors are dismissed until the year Rouvke's name appears in the military roll call and he moves to America. In America, Rouvke is a peddler for his first four years, but the memory of Hanele plagues his heart at times. Occasionally, Rouvke asks his mother for minute details about Hanele. Rouvke peddles but does not interact with females as the other peddlers do. He tries to avoid the uncomfortable situation of being introduced to ladies at other peddlers' houses.

By the time Rouvke reaches twenty-five years old, he has over three thousand dollars in the bank and his heart and eyes wander to women, dwelling on the ladies he is introduced to. Rouvke enrolls in night school for immigrants and learns how to read and write English. He reminds himself that he is no longer Rouvke but Robert. He hopes to open his own peddlers' supply store. He worries that ladies only sneer at men who are unable to read the newspaper, but he is pained by others' ability to learn English quicker as well as the jokes that are made at his expense in front of young ladies. Rouvke begins inquiring for details about how marriages are negotiated and fantasizes about his own future marriage. Rouvke encounters Feive at the "Sons of Kropovetz" synagogue and, asking about his old master, learns that Peretz is in reduced circumstances. Although Rouvke pities Peretz, he also feels triumphant since he is now richer than his former master. Feive also tells Rouvke that Hanele is still unmarried and beautiful. Although Rouvke daydreams about marrying Hanele, he realizes that the idea is preposterous. Feive visits Rouvke and suggests that he marries Hanele, offering to negotiate the match. Although Rouvke rejects this idea since he would be a fool to marry Hanele now that she is so poor, he has now been changed from a bochor into a choson, a young man placed on the matrimonial market.

As Rouvke examines American girls, Hanele keeps entering his imagination, and he is enchanted with the idea of marrying her. Although Feive receives no positive hint as he continues broaching the subject, he writes to Peretz in Rouvke's favor. Rouvke overhears Mrs. Kohen's outraged conversation with Feive about the absurdity of Rouvke marrying Hanele. Insulted, Rouvke knocks and asks Feive if he truly believes Peretz will have him as a son-in-law, determined to marry Hanele now if only to spite Mrs. Kohen. Feive negotiates the marriage, and Rouvke receives many congratulations from the other peddlers. Rouvke meets Hanele at the nauseating seaport. When Hanele appears, Rouvke sees that she is more charming and beautiful than before; he feels like Rouvke instead of Robert. He goes to meet Hanele when her name is called, but Rouvke is shocked to see her being escorted by a young man in the overcoat of a Russian collegian. Hanele introduces Gospodin Levinsky, her choson. Rouvke threatens to call the police as Feive threatens to tell Peretz what Hanele has done.Rouvke grabs Gospodin and yells for the police, but a hotel runner saves Hanele and Gospodin Levinsky as the other peddlers laugh at Rouvke.

Fannyappears in Yekl

Fanny loves Jake and is jealous when he dances with Mamie at Joe's dancing school. She changes jobs when she learns that Jake is married and tells Gitl about Jake's relationship with Mamie.

Mamieappears in Yekl

Mamie loves Jake and dances with him at Joe's dancing school, making Fanny jealous. She threatens to tell Gitl about his gallivanting before his wife joined him in America. Mamie is very jealous of Fanny and Gitl, but she agrees to send Jake to Philadelphia while she arranges his divorce. She rides to the mayor's office to marry Jake after his divorce is legally obtained.

Gitlappears in Yekl

Gitl is Jake's wife who joins him in America after three years of separation. She disgusts Jake with her un-American appearance. She is jealous of Mamie when Jake introduces the two women. Gitl learns of Jake's relationship with Mamie from Fanny. Jake abandons and divorces Gitl. After her divorce, Gitl cries though she is truly happy because she plans to marry Mr. Bernstein and open a grocery store together.

Mrs. Kavarskyappears in Yekl

Mrs. Kavarsky is Jake's landlady. She loans Jake her prayer book when he cannot remember his prayers by heart. Mrs. Kavarsky serves as Gitl's confidant when Gitl suspects that Jake is cheating on her. She arranges Gitl's hair in the American style and chides Jake for the way he treats his wife. Mrs. Kavarsky comforts Gitl after the divorce.

Mr. Bernsteinappears in Yekl

Mr. Bernstein is an educated man who works at the cloak shop with Jake. After Gitl and Yossele arrive in America, he boards with Jake and his family. Mr. Bernstein plans to marry Gitl and take care of Yossele after she divorces Jake. He plans to open a grocery store with Gitl.

Floraappears in The Imported Bridegroom

Flora is Asriel's daughter who is determined to marry a doctor. At first she disdains Shaya, but then Flora comes to love the prodigy. She convinces him to secretly study to become a doctor. When Asriel finds out about this secret, he forbids Flora to see Shaya. Flora elopes with Shaya, but she feels excluded from his future when he seems more interested in his books than his new wife.

Shayaappears in The Imported Bridegroom

Shaya is a prodigy in Pravly, and negotiations are underway for his marriage to Reb Lippe's youngest daughter when Asriel arrives, outbids Reb Lippe and takes Shaya to America to marry Flora. Shaya loves knowledge and Flora, so he agrees to study to become a doctor. When Asriel forbids the match, Shaya and Flora elope. Shaya disappoints Flora when she realizes that he loves knowledge more than he loves her.

Gospodin Levinskyappears in A Providential Match

Gospodin Levinsky is the Russian student that Hanele falls in love with on her journey to America. He offers to repay Rouvke for the marriage fees.

Haneleappears in A Providential Match

Hanele is Peretz's daughter who agrees to go to America and marry Rouvke; however, she falls in love with Gospodin Levinsky on her journey and decides to marry him instead.

Feiveappears in A Providential Match

Feive is a matchmaker from Kropovetz who Rouvke again encounters at the "Sons of Kropovetz" synagogue in New York City. Feive negotiates the marriage between Rouvke and Hanele.

Heymanappears in A Sweatshop Romance

Heyman courts Beile but is too scared to propose to her. He is embarrassed about Beile and David's altercation with the Lipmans'. It takes him two weeks to summon the courage to visit Beile, only to hear her and David's engagement party going on inside of her house.

Beileappears in A Sweatshop Romance

Beile is courted by Heyman but thinks he is too stingy to propose. After Mrs. Lipman treats her like a servant, Beile quits the Lipmans' shop at David's encouragement. She is angry that Heyman does not stand up for her, but those feelings quickly subside as David begins to court her. Beile and David get engaged.

Davidappears in A Sweatshop Romance

David is mesmerized by Beile and enjoys her singing at work. He encourages her to quit the Lipmans' shop when Mrs. Lipman treats her poorly, and he helps Beile find a new job. After courting Beile for only ten days, David proposes.

Tatyanaappears in Circumstances

Tatyana is Boris' wife. At first, she does not want to keep a boarder because she wants to have Boris to herself. When they do take a boarder, Tatyana falls in love with Dalsky and leaves her husband.

Borisappears in Circumstances

Boris studies to become a lawyer in Russia but cannot because he is a Jew. He immigrates to America where he works in a button factory and loses his intellectual appearance. Boris suggests taking a boarder for the extra income. When Tatyana begins to fight with Boris more frequently, he suspects that she is in love with Dalsky. He mourns when Tatyana leaves him.

Dalskyappears in Circumstances

Dalsky is a student who boards with Tatyana and Boris. When he begins to suspect that Tatyana is interested in him, Dalsky moves out of their home.

Nathanappears in A Ghetto Wedding

Nathan peddles for extra money so that he can marry Goldy, his beloved, quicker. He agrees with Goldy's demands for a proper wedding though it is not important to him. Their financial problems do not matter to Nathan because he loves Goldy so much.

Goldyappears in A Ghetto Wedding

Goldy loves Nathan and wants to marry him, but she insists upon a property wedding instead of a "slipshod wedding." She suggests having a proper wedding and depending upon gifts from the guests to furnish their home. When she is disappointed in her gift expectations, Goldy is ashamed for her desire to spend their money on the wedding instead of furniture. As a form of self-chastisement, Goldy insists upon walking home from the wedding instead of borrowing money to hire a carriage. Their financial problems do not matter to Goldy because she loves Nathan so much.

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Yekl and the Imported Bridegroom and Other Stories of the New York Ghetto from BookRags and Gale's For Students Series. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.
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