Study Guide

Shprintze & Ahronchik in Tevye the Dairyman

By Sholem Aleichem

Shprintze & Ahronchik

Poor Shprintze. Talk about falling in love with the wrong guy. At least one thing about an arranged match is that you usually don't want to kill yourself if it falls through.

Chava, Tzeitl, and Hodl all make matches that Tevye isn't too into at first (or ever), but at least you get the sense that they're mature enough to be making their own choices. Sometimes it really doesn't work out, though—especially if the girl is still reading Teen Beat, and the guy hasn't grown out of his wrecking-fast-cars phase. In other words, these kids are way too young.

At least Shprintze has a dad that cares enough about her to try to make her happy. Ahronchik's family is more concerned about their social status and connections than they are about his emotions. But don't take our word for it—here's Ahronchik's uncle on the subject:

Either you are playing dumb or you are an oaf, although you don't look like one. If you were an oaf, you wouldn't have dragged my nephew into this mess, inviting him for Shevuos blintzes and tempting him with a pretty girl. I won't get into whether she is really your daughter. He fell in love with her, and she with him. It's possible she is a very special child and means well, I won't get into that. But you mustn't forget who you are and who we are. You are a man of learning, so how can you even consider that Tevye the dairyman, who delivers cheese and butter to us, could be our in-law? (7.125)

What are we supposed to even do with that? Why on earth wouldn't Shprintze be Tevye's daughter—is the guy saying she's some kind of prostitute or something? The whole thing is such a crazy slap in the face that you really start to get why it might be nice for these negotiations to be taken care of before the actual bride and groom get too involved.

And so the story's horrible ending (spoiler alert—Shprintze drowns herself) raises the question—was Tevye right to let his daughter make this call in the first place? Or should he have overruled her and spared her the more vicious rejection she gets from her potential in-laws?

Oh, and notice that the point of this story, like the other ones, isn't to provide some in depth, moving character study of either Shprintze or Ahronchik. Check out the way Shprintze reacts to the bad news: "Do you think she said so much as a word to me, that she lamented or wept? […] Quietly, turning inward into herself, she anguished and flickered like a dying candle" (7.128).

Okay, sure, maybe she's all quiet because she's one of "Tevye's daughters" (7.128), as he says. Or maybe Sholem Aleichem just doesn't really care how she feels.