I don’t read much immigration narrative outside of those I had to read for my University courses. That is not to say that I don’t like Immigration narrative stories. I actually enjoy them very much. The Rise of David Levinsky is perhaps one of my most favorite ones and yes, I read it for my AmericanStudies Master. I’m guessing everyone loves to read a rags to riches story because it’s fun to see the underdog rise up from nothing and kick ass. Summary and review after the jump
Warning: some minor spoilers ahead.
The Rise of David Levinsky is pretty straightforward. David lives in a small Russian town in extreme poverty and he initially lives a quiet live studying the torah. Whit the Death of his mother and the escalating violence of Pogroms, David, with the help of a few generous people, is able to escape to New York. There, like at home he finds himself unhappy and discriminated. His religion, his being an immigrant, his English skills (or lack thereof) are all indications of his un-Americanness. He takes it upon himself to become the ideal American in order to gain success and happiness, yet the question is whether he is able to accomplish it all?
Cahan, an immigrant himself does a great job in depicting an immigrant-laden New York City and the demeaning jobs these people had to do in order to make a living. While the trivial things that lead up to David’s success within the buzzing Clothing industry seem a bit convenient, it does add to some kind of feeling that God is watching over him even though the more successful he becomes, the more David forsakes his Jewishness and all it meant to him back in the early years of his life.
The entire story can be compared to another famous American novel written a few decades later. Like David, Jay Gatsby also abandons his former life in order to recreate his image and become successful. Both the stories hint at the fact that money cannot buy happiness, or at the very least the love of a woman and companionship. The richer David becomes, the more lonely and he sabatoges the companions he has in life without realizing it. The Novel, perhaps unknowingly asks: ‘is the American dream flawed?’ David’s is, Though perhaps Cahan and later Fitzgerald, want to point out that the American dream should not be the only thing people should aspire to. Living only the dream, you may forget to live your life and enjoy those around you. It’s a good story of a man coming to terms with the choices he’s made and the affects they have had on his life.
You can buy The Rise of David Levinsky here
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