The Rise of David Levinsky

The Rise of David Levinsky

by Abraham Cahan


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David Levinsky, a Russian immigrant, moved to America in search of opportunity but is forced to confront many moral and economic challenges along the way. It’s a compelling account of one person’s faith and perseverance following a life-changing decision. After a series of tragedies, David Levinsky decides to leave his native Russia for the United States. Formally educated in the Talmud, he has strong religious beliefs that clash with his new secular lifestyle. He eventually finds work but is interested in starting his own business. Over time, his professional life begins to thrive, while his personal endeavors suffer. With the accumulation of wealth and prestige, comes the unavoidable cost of the American dream. The Rise of David Levinsky details the highs and lows of the immigrant experience. It examines the desire and sacrifice required to build a new life. It’s a cautionary tale that explores the strength and struggles of the nineteenth century Jewish immigrant. With an eye-catching new cover, and professionally typeset manuscript, this edition of The Rise of David Levinsky is both modern and readable.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781515431329
Publisher: Wilder Publications
Publication date: 04/03/2018
Pages: 454
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.13(d)

About the Author

Amy Lowell (1874-1925) was an American poet. Born into an elite family of businessmen, politicians, and intellectuals, Lowell was a member of the so-called Boston Brahmin class. She excelled in school from a young age and developed a habit for reading and book collecting. Denied the opportunity to attend college by her family, Lowell traveled extensively in her twenties and turned to poetry in 1902. While in England with her lover Ada Dwyer Russell, she met American poet Ezra Pound, whose influence as an imagist and fierce critic of Lowell’s work would prove essential to her poetry. In 1912, only two years after publishing her first poem in The Atlantic Monthly, Lowell produced A Dome of Many-Coloured Glasses, her debut volume of poems. In addition to such collections of her own poems as Sword Blades and Poppy Seed (1914) and Men, Women, and Ghosts (1916), Lowell published translations of 8th century Chinese poet Li Tai-po and, at the time of her death, had been working on a biography of English Romantic John Keats.

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Home and School Chapter I

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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