The Son from America by Isaac Bashevis Singer
In The Son from America by Isaac Bashevis Singer we have the theme of contentment, independence, tradition, appearance, faith, humility, change and acceptance. Narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator the reader realises after reading the story that Singer may be exploring the theme of contentment. Berl and Berlcha do not have a lot when it comes to material possessions nor do they seem to have a need for material possessions. They live simple lives and seem to be content and happy. The money that Samuel has sent them over the years remains in an old boot that Berl keeps in his hut. Where most people might have decided to spend the money Berl has no need for the money. This may be important as it suggests that Berl is self-sufficient. He relies on nobody but himself. Just as those in the village do. Each individual in the village, including Berl and Berlcha, do not seem to need the assistance of anybody else. Which may suggest that Berl, Berlcha and those who live in the village are independent of others. It is also noticeable that Berl and Berlcha continue to live traditional lives. There is no sense that modernity has reached the village of Lentshin. At least not when compared to the world that Samuel comes from.
Samuel has spent the last forty years living and working in America and if anything he would be viewed upon by many as having made a success of his life. That is if success is measured by financial wealth. Samuel would be considered by many to be an example of the American Dream. He has made a success of his life and seems to be financially independent from others. It is also possible that Singer is placing a spotlight on the American Dream and what it represents to the individual. Many people live their lives chasing and not attaining the American Dream. However both Berl and Berlcha do not have the same urges that others have. They live simply and are astute enough to realise that they do not need the things that are associated with the American Dream (money). The fact that the narrator also describes Samuel as being a noble man may also be important as the narrator appears to be basing their opinion solely on how Samuel is dressed (in finery) and on the fact that he has two leather suitcases. If anything Samuel stands out from the other people including Berl and Berlcha that live in Lentshin. The reader aware that the narrator seems to be suggesting that due to his appearance Samuel is a success.
It is also interesting that Samuel despite his obvious success in America is still respectful of his parents and immediately helps his mother with kneading the bread. This simple action suggests a degree of humility. Samuel has not forgotten his roots. Something that is clearer to the reader while Samuel is walking around Lentshin and we discover that he wishes to help those in the village. It is also interesting that Singer places a spotlight on religion or faith in the story. Both Berl and Berlcha are focused on visiting the synagogue on a weekly basis and keeping the Sabbath. This may be important as Singer could be suggesting that there is a power higher than money. Despite the obvious abilities of Samuel to change the lives of his parents both Berl and Berlcha maintain a dedication to their religion. They are not swayed by the lure of money or by what money can do. Simplicity appears to be the key to Berl and Berlcha’s life. They do not want for anything.
The end of the story is also interesting as Samuel appears to have a moment of realisation. He realises that his parents and those who live in Lentshin do not need to be influenced by him or the Lentshin Society in New York. Despite his good wishes Samuel realises that it is better if he does not try and change the lives of those who live in Lentshin. It is also possible that Singer is suggesting that the American Dream is not necessarily transferable or wanted by others. Not everybody has the same wants or desires as those who chase and obtain the American Dream. Something that Samuel is clever enough to realise. He realises that it is not his place to impose change on those who live in Lentshin. Each individual in the village including Berl and Berlcha live happy lives as they are. Something that Samuel accepts as he is walking through the village. Though he himself has pursued the American Dream and been successful Samuel knows that the gauge for success for each individual is different. Not everybody wishes to chase the American Dream nor do they necessarily need to change their lives for the sake of change. Some people can live their lives content even though others might suggest that how the same individuals live their lives is simple. However Singer may be suggesting that the key to happiness is not to chase something as elusive as the American Dream but for an individual to live their life simply and to remain in touch with their faith.