Tevye the Dairyman
by Sholem Aleichem
Tevye the Dairyman Tradition and Customs Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Story Number.Paragraph
[…] everyone was delighted to see him—a guest! […] Golde's grilling began: "How are things in Kasrilevka? […] Who died? Who got married? Who got divorced? Who has given birth and who is expecting?"
"Why do you need to know about other people's weddings and other people's brises?" I said. "Better see that there is something to eat." (3.22-23)
A nice little contrast between life-changing, big-time rites and traditions (people getting married, babies having bris ceremonies), and the small-time custom of being a proper host—which here basically means lots and lots of food.
You were talking about today's children. Here's what Isaiah said: I have nourished and brought up children—you bring them into the world, they make your life miserable, you sacrifice yourself for them, you slave away night and day, and what comes of it? […] So I figured that with my daughters it would surely work out. Why? First of all, God blessed me with pretty daughters, and as you yourself have said, a pretty face is half the dowry. (4.1)
Tevye has trouble thinking of his daughters as anything other than marriage fodder—which is pretty much appropriate to his culture, even if it's a little infuriating to read.
"Are you crazy?" I said. "Or are you just out of your mind? You are the matchmaker and the bridegroom? Will you be playing the music too at your own wedding? I've never heard of such a thing—a young man arranging a match for himself!" […] But one thing stuck in my craw that I could not understand, no matter what. They made a pledge to marry? What was our world coming to? A young man met a girl and said her to, "Let's pledge to marry." That was not done! (4.12-20)
You have to love the one-man-band imagery here. But the real question here is: is a marriage a public, societal thing? Or is it private, based on emotions? Tevye is stuck here between one tradition dying out and another one forming.