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Tevye the Dairyman

Tevye the Dairyman


by Sholem Aleichem

Tevye Timeline and Summary

  • Tevye is a barely-making-ends-meet woodcutter.
  • On one trip into the forest, he runs into two women who are lost and trying to find the town of Boiberik.
  • He goes out of his way to give them a ride, and they give new meaning to the phrase "cash cow" by, you know, giving him both cash and a cow.
  • At home, Tevye and his wife Golde decide to buy a second cow and go into the dairy delivery business.
  • Flush with a little extra cash, Tevye invests his dough with Menachem-Mendl, a cousin who talks a big game about stocks and derivatives and that sort of thing... and then of course loses all the money.
  • Tevye arranges his daughter Tzeitl's marriage to butcher Lazer-Wolf but drops it when he realizes that she's secretly engaged to the village tailor. He spins a long ghost story to convince Golde that the tailor is a better match.
  • On his way to meet a prospective husband for his daughter Hodl, Tevye learns that she is—surprise—in love with a poor student and allows them to marry.
  • When the student is imprisoned and exiled, Tevye drives Hodl to the train station so she can join him. It's so sad that even our frozen tear ducts thaw a little.
  • The next daughter down is Chava, who runs away to the village priest's house so she can marry a Gentile man.
  • Tevye has a screaming match with the local priest. He doesn't win.
  • After disowning Chava, he forbids his family to ever mention her name or act as though she were alive.
  • While pogroms are sweeping through the south of Russia, Tevye befriends a wealthy widow and promises to straighten out her son Ahronchik.
  • Not long after, Tevye is amazed to discover that Ahronchik has fallen in love with his daughter Shprintze. Ahronchik's uncle summons Tevye into town and puts the kibosh on that whole idea.
  • After Shprintze drowns herself, Tevye reflects that somehow life manages to go on no matter how horrible it gets.
  • When his youngest daughter grows up, Tevye arranges her marriage to a wealthy contractor. The contractor then asks Tevye to make himself scarce—by going either to America or Israel—since his low-class job is, like, totally embarrassing.
  • Tevye is ready to go, until Tzeitl's husband dies and he takes her and her kids in to live with him.
  • The contractor is no longer a problem, since his business has failed and he's living a disgraced life in America.
  • The village mayor and a small mob come to beat him up and destroy his house. He talks them down to more minor destruction, but a constable delivers the newest government decree that all Jews are being forcibly removed from the village. Oh, but they can leave their possessions behind, KTHKS.
  • Tzeitl tells Tevye that they can't leave without Chava, who has left her non-Jewish husband and life behind to come with them. Tevye forgives her.
  • Tevye sells his house and leaves with his family, thinking that it sure would be nice to have somewhere to go.