From 11:00PM PDT on Friday, July 1 until 5:00AM PDT on Saturday, July 2, the Shmoop engineering elves will be making tweaks and improvements to the site. That means Shmoop will be unavailable for use during that time. Thanks for your patience!
We have changed our privacy policy. In addition, we use cookies on our website for various purposes. By continuing on our website, you consent to our use of cookies. You can learn about our practices by reading our privacy policy.
© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
Tevye the Dairyman

Tevye the Dairyman

  

by Sholem Aleichem

Tevye the Dairyman Theme of Power

Tevye's way with words is nothing against the big iron fist of Russian Imperial power that's about to slam down on his village. Although a lot of Tevye the Dairyman is taken up with minor jockeying for position—Tevye with the various potential matches for his daughters, with other dairy suppliers, with his customers, with God—in reality, the true raw power in the book comes late, in the form of official anti-Semitic government policy. This isn't really even a contest, since Tevye has no way to resist being dispossessed and forcibly removed from his village except a vague hope that maybe in the future there will be a somewhere for him to go.

Questions About Power

  1. How does the book present those in positions of official authority—the priest, say, or the mayor? Does this presentation give us a hint of what is to come from the government? Or do we sympathize with them?
  2. As the book continues, there's more evidence that the pogrom are coming closer and closer to our protagonists. Why isn't this info highlighted in some way? Is Tevye in denial about it? Is he prevented from seeing what's coming by assuming that someone who is as good a neighbor as he is will be okay?
  3. Who is the most powerful of the daughters? The least powerful? Would Tevye have a different answer?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Tevye refuses to recognize how much power he has over the events of his life because it is easier to just be passive and blame everything on God.

Sholem Aleichem would disagree with Tevye that those who are able to hide their emotions seem the most powerful, strongest people.

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...

Advertisement