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Critique Of The Book Call It Sleep Written By Henry Roth

Critique of the book Call It Sleep written by Henry Roth The book Call It Sleep written by Henry Roth is a literary work that explores immigrant life as they adjust to the new and unfamiliar ways of American life. The book is somewhat of a social commentary on the period of the Eastern European immigration to America at its peak. The novel gives an inside view on how foreigners (primarily Jewish immigrants) fit into main stream society. Throughout the course of the novel, you travel along with the main character David Schearl as he ages from six to eight and grows up in Brownsville on the lower East side of New York. David is torn between the love of his over protective mother and the hatred of his angry and mentally disturbed father in a quest to make sense of his life in contrast with all of the other immigrant children that he comes in contact with. All of the adventures that David encounters and all of the people that he comes in contact with are simply the authors way of depicting an immigrants inner struggle and deal! ing with the pressures of life as seen through the eyes of a remarkably perceptive and imaginative child.

The opening scenes are set in New York harbor in 1907 at a time when the inflow of foreigners is at its peak. A woman and her small child come off of the boat to reunite with her husband that had gone before them to the new world to start a better life than they were used to in their old country. The author has you experience what it is like to come into New York Harbor and see the city skyline and the lights; and also to experience the feeling of hope and promise for a brighter future for the immigrants. However when Albert Schearl shows up late and uncaring to greet a wife and son who dont recognize him right away, it is hinted to the reader that trouble is in store for the Schearl family. The father Albert Schearl is introduced as a very haughty and proud individual that believes that he should abandon all signs of his former upbringing and conform to the American ways of life. He is a printer by trade however he cannot hold down a job long enough due to his violent and uncontrollable temperament.

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He thinks that people are constantly watching his every move therefore he cannot give t************************************************* ************************************ ************************************************** ************************************ ************************************************** ************************************ ************************************************** ************************************ ************************************************** ************************************ ************************************************** ********************************* Yiddish and his son is wearing a bonnet that clearly blows their cover in ! their attempts to masquerade as Americans. Later on in the book we learn that Alberts anger towards his wife and son is brought about by his doubts of Davids paternity due to the fact that his wife had a brief affair with a Gentile in the old country. Thus it can be said that the reason for Alberts rage and insanity came about by this betrayal. This issue arises again when David receives a rosary from his Polish friend Leo and tells the rabbi a lie about how his mother is really dead and he is half Christian. When the story finds its way back to his father and the rosary is accidentally discovered, Albert is sure of his suspicion about Davids paternity is accurate. Throughout the course of the story Albert is seen almost as the villain that has an iron fist rule over his household thus creating a Freudian mother son bond that cannot be severed. His rage strikes fear into the heart of both his wife and his son thus causing young David to wander the streets of the nei! ghborhood in search of a way to break free from his fathers imprisonment.

At the end of the story when David is burned and the thought of actually losing his son become apparent to Albert, this is his moment of catharsis and he exchanges his hatred for his son for that of a concerned parent. Only then is it evident that there is hope for change in Albert and that things will eventually work themselves out. It finally becomes evident to the reader that Alberts true anger was not directed towards his family but rather to the idea that he felt that he would never truly fit into this new world and deep down this realization was eating away at him. The next character in the story is Alberts wife Genya. From the very beginning of the story she is introduced as gentle and soft spoken. Though she is a minor character she still plays a tremendous role in the shaping of Davids character.

However she lives in fear of her husband and it can be questioned whether or not she truly loves him or is it out of duty or necessity she feels that she has to remain with him. One thing is evident, due to the lack of compassion that she receives from her husband she in turn makes it her mission to devote all of her love, time, and energy towards her young son David. Throughout the course of the entire story Genya acts as both mother protector and friend to her son. The love that she has for her son can be detected in the in her voice when she speaks to David in Yiddish. She is always there to give advice to David or to supply him with the love that he lacks from his father.

The fact that he dose not have a true male role model to ! look up to and the influence of his mother makes David more of a caring and compassionate individual not mischievous and troublesome like some of the other neighborhood children that he comes in to contact with. Finally there is the main character of the story David Schearl. From the very beginning of the story David depends upon his mother for support, strength, and approval in everything that he does. The main reason for Davids wandering about the streets of New York is to escape the wrath of his father but he is also trying to decide where he fits in to society in comparison to all of the neighborhood immigrant children. David feels that his father has both his mother and himself imprisoned and any chance that he gets to leave his fathers house is a chance for him to break free from his father entirely.

With all of the adventures that David encounters in the streets of his neighborhood, he learns about life, religion, and sexuality, all of the things that he should have learned from his father but instead learned from the streets.


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