Study Guide

Tevye the Dairyman "Get Thee Gone"

By Sholem Aleichem

"Get Thee Gone"

  • We run into Tevye, who must obviously be coming from an awesome sight-seeing trip to Israel, right? Dude, tell us about the cool stuff you saw! But go easy on the 1,000 Instagrams, please.
  • Oh, wait, no. Apparently just as he was about to take off for Israel, Tzeitl's husband Motl the tailor died from tuberculosis.
  • Yikes. So Tzeitl and her kids came to live with Tevye and he obviously couldn't go anywhere and leave them.
  • But, you ask, wasn't this a huge problem for Beilke and that Podhotsur dude who wanted Tevye gone in the first place?
  • Yeah, not so much. Turns out he went bust and had to flee to America to escape his creditors.
  • Now he and Beilke are working in some factory, under clearly horrific conditions. America, not such a great place to be a Jewish immigrant (or any kind of immigrant) in the early 20th century.
  • So anyway, Tevye quickly alludes to the fact that this is yet again a time of pogrom, as Jewish villages are being raided by government-sanctioned gangs of thugs.
  • And what a coincidence: one day, Ivan Poperilo, the Gentile mayor of Tevye's town, along with a bunch of the other non-Jews who live there, comes and tells him straight out that they need to beat Tevye up and burn down his house.
  • It's nothing personal—he's an okay neighbor and everything—but rules are rules, and the rules right now are that all Jews must suffer some kind of violence under the hands of their neighbors.
  • Wow, fun place to live, eh?
  • Tevye is trying to think his way out of the situation, and asks them to think about what God will have to say about their behavior after they die.
  • This causes a bit of a stir, but Ivan the mayor is all, dude, we really have to mess with your stuff or else we'll probably get in trouble for leaving you alone.
  • So they break windows and do a number on the rest of the house.
  • Tevye ponders why God doesn't interfere and save the Jews, even though, pretty close by, a dude is actually on trial for using baby blood to make matzo.
  • This is good old-fashioned anti-Semitism, circa about 1000 CE.
  • These people have obviously never had any matzo, because if they had they'd know for sure that there is not one drop of baby blood in them.
  • While he's contemplating this, a constable rides up on a horse and tells him that a government decree is forcing all the Jews out. Immediately.
  • Because the guy is being nice, he gives Tevye three days to clear out. Awww, three whole days. That's so thoughtful.
  • Tevye starts to argue—he's a good neighbor, he's a law-abiding member of society, he's a guy that's respected in the community, so why on earth would they kick him out of the town?
  • But the constable really just washes his hands of the whole thing and says he's only following orders. Every single Jew is in the same boat—it's state-mandated ethnic cleansing.
  • Tevye gives the bad news to Tzeitl, who immediately breaks down in tears.
  • Whoa! Tevye gets super mad at her! We're not psychologists, and we don't even play them on TV, but that sounds a lot like some misplaced anger issues there.
  • The first thing to do is sell the house. Tevye goes to see Ivan Poperilo, the mayor, who has apparently wanted to buy his house all along. Trying not to let him know why he is selling, and how quickly he needs to sell, Tevye manages to do the deal at not too horrible a loss.
  • Back at home, he is super depressed to see the house taken apart and packed up.
  • Tzeitl is depressed too, because she's still crying. Tevye is all, yeah, I know, it's hard to leave the place where you grew up and where everything you know is.
  • But that's not why Tzeitl is crying—she is crying because she doesn't want to leave Chava behind.
  • At the sound of that name, Tevye totally loses it (again) and starts screaming that Chava is no longer a part of their family, and how dare anyone mention her in his presence, and grump grump grump.
  • Tzeitl lets him have his little temper tantrum, and then just hugs him and says that Chava is coming with them—her satchel is already packed, and she has left her husband to rejoin her family.
  • It turns out that Chava is in the next room. She comes out, holds out her hands, calls Tevye, "Papa"… and duh, he totally forgives her.
  • The story ends with Tevye reflecting that grandkids are way better than kids. Nice one.