Study Guide

Tevye the Dairyman Wealth

By Sholem Aleichem


Money makes the world go 'round—until it doesn't. There isn't much of an overall narrative in Tevye the Dairyman, but there is a big shift in the way Tevye thinks about money. He starts off working hand-to-mouth, so of course becoming rich is his favorite daydream. But as he sees two of his daughters being happy with poor husbands, and even more so after another daughter's life is destroyed by a family obsessed with status, Tevye reconsiders his ideas about the importance of having a lot of money. He even ends up counseling his last daughter to avoid marrying for money and instead to hold out for a more love-based relationship. Like, way to show some character growth there, Tevye.

Questions About Wealth

  1. How does the celebration at the Boiberik dacha in the first story compare to the one at Tevye's house when he invites Ahronchik and his friends over?
  2. How do the details of Lazer-Wolf's house and Podhotsur's house help define the characters for us?
  3. What does Tevye want to do with money? Why does he want to be wealthy? What problems does he imagine money will solve?
  4. What is the relationship between the rich and the poor in the book? How does Tevye's relationship with his Yehupetz and Boiberik customers compare to Shprintze's relationship with Ahronchik and his family?

Chew on This

Although at first Tevye is in awe of the rich people around him, by the end of the book he comes to disdain them and what their financial success stands for.

Tevye presents Beilke's decision to marry for money as a positive choice, even though it also seems to approve of Tzeitl and Hodl's decision to marry for love.