Tevye the Dairyman
by Sholem Aleichem
Tevye the Dairyman Theme of Family
Life in Tevye is a family affair. Loyalty to the family, concern about how the family is functioning in the world, and securing the future of family members: these are all way more important concerns than backpacking through Europe to find yourself. Images of family protection are all over the place—the uncle who cancels Shprintze's engagement, Beilke's practical decision to marry the rich dude who can float her sisters. People who reject their family identity—Chava, primarily—are the worst kind of traitors. A comforting source of stability in an unstable world? Sure. Deeply oppressive, even if not quite as oppressive as the Russian government? We'll let you decide that one.
Questions About Family
- Why don't we see any of the in-laws that must come with at least some of the husbands Tevye's daughters find? (The only ones we encounter are the potential in-laws that devastate Shprintze.) Whose family do you most want to check out? Perchik's? Podhotsur's? Whose wouldn't matter?
- Which of the daughters is most like Tevye? Which is least like him? How can you tell?
- We get a sense that Golde is very tied to the family she grew up in, referencing their professions, personalities, and even superstitiously holding her Grandma Tzeitl up as some kind of prophet figure. Why don't we ever hear about Tevye's mother or father?
Chew on This
Sholem Aleichem depicts Tevye's sense of family as having more to do with its external appearance to the rest of the world than an internal emotional connection.
In Tevye, the daughters rebel because they have almost no example of what a husband and a wife are like. Golde and Tevye's marriage is barely a relationship at all.