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Tevye the Dairyman

Tevye the Dairyman

by Sholem Aleichem

Analysis: Three-Act Plot Analysis

For a three-act plot analysis, put on your screenwriter’s hat. Moviemakers know the formula well: at the end of Act One, the main character is drawn in completely to a conflict. During Act Two, she is farthest away from her goals. At the end of Act Three, the story is resolved.

Act I:

Cash Cow

Tevye is an "ordinary man" (1.2) until he comes into a little money and sets himself up as a dairyman. Well, he's still ordinary. But at least he's not dirt-poor anymore.

Act II:

Making Their Own Matches

Tevye's daughters try to marry according to their wishes, rejecting their village's system of arranging marriages. Surprisingly, Tevye is mostly okay with this radical behavior. He might want to rethink his permissiveness, though, because it ends badly when one daughter runs off with a Gentile and another kills herself after a broken engagement.

Act III:

Movin' Out

The gub'mint forcibly removes Tevye and his family from the village. He leaves thinking that there must be a place where Jews can feel like they belong. Sure there is, Tevye. It's called the Upper West Side.

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