The Rise of David Levinsky

The Rise of David Levinsky

by Abraham Cahan

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Overview

A young Hasidic Jew seeks his fortune in New York's Lower East Side. He turns from his religious studies to focus on the business world, where he discovers the high price of assimilation.


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780486425177
Publisher: Dover Publications
Publication date: 12/09/2002
Series: Dover Value Editions Series
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 1,106,144
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x (d)

About the Author

Abraham Cahan (1860–1951) was born in Eastern Europe and emigrated to the U.S in 1882. As a young man, he lived in New York City where he found work in a cigar factory. As he adjusted to American life, he learned English and began writing for different publications. He became the founder and editor of The Jewish Daily Forward, a position he held for more than 40 years. In 1896, he published his first novel iYekl: A Tale of the New York Ghetto. But he’s best known for the massively successful The Rise of David Levinsky, published in 1917.

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Home and School Chapter I
(Continues…)



Excerpted from "The Rise of David Levinsky"
by .
Copyright © 1993 Abraham Cahan.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Reading Group Guide

1. The novel opens with David Levinsky's declaration that "the metamorphosis I have gone through strikes me as nothing short of a miracle." What motivates the narrator's transformation from devoted Talmudic scholar to passionate student to his final incarnation as a driven businessman? What additional themes contribute to Levinsky's dramatic metamorphosis?

2. How would you characterize the differences between the Orthodox Jews and westernized Jews of Antomir? Later, when the story moves to America, how does Cahan contrast Eastern European Jews with German Jews? And what may be gleaned from Cahan's depiction of the relationship between turn-of-the-century Jews and gentiles?

3.  "The United States lured me not merely as a land of milk and honey, but also, and perhaps chiefly, as one of mystery, of fantastic experiences, of marvelous transformations," recalls David Levinsky. Drawing on the novel's vivid depiction of Jewish immigrants from all levels of society, which of them share the narrator's rosy view of America? Does David Levinsky retain his deep enthusiasm for the United States, or do his feelings shift over the course of the novel?

4. The Rise of David Levinsky has been hailed as an important novel of American business. How does Levinsky's enthusiasm for social Darwinism and "the theory of the Struggle for Existence and the Survival of the Fittest" affect his business practices? Considering Cahan's depiction of the conflicts between Capital and Labor, what might you infer about the author's own views on the subject? Is his portrayal evenhanded?

5. In examining Abraham Cahan's portrayal of women and marriage, the scholar Susan Kress notes that the author "avoids stereotyped portraits, frequently expresses the woman's perspective, and creates a series of memorable female characters." Do you agree?

6. According to the literary critic Sanford Marovitz, "[Levinsky's] ideal Woman, a union of Mother, Wife, Harlot, and Princess . . . floats ever-present in the recesses of his mind, an impossible dream that can nowhere find substantiation in the light of common day." Is this a satisfying explanation for Levinsky's ultimate failure to find a suitable romantic partner? Discuss.

7. At the end of the story, Levinsky declares, "I cannot escape from my old self. My past and my present do not comport well. David, the poor lad swinging over a Talmud volume at the Preacher's Synagogue, seems to have more in common with my inner identity than David Levinsky, the well-known cloak-manufacturer." What has the narrator sacrificed in order to attain financial success in America?

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