Today we talked about the excerpt from Abraham Cahan's novel Yekl, which was published in 1896 (pp. 216 - 128 in our book).
One of the comprehension questions was about the differences between Yekl, who now calls himself "Jake", and his wife Gitl, who has just arrived on Ellis Island after a long journey from Eastern Europe:
Jake has lost his Jewish identity and has become a stylish, clean-shaven and smartly dressed young man. Gitl is dressed in a very orthodox Jewish way and she looks dowdy, unattractive and even scruffy by comparison. She is wearing a wig because orthodox Jewish women have to cover their natural hair in public.
Then we read the info boxes on "Yiddish" and "Ellis Island" (p. 219) before answering the question on the final passage of the excerpt (ll. 184-189).
Whereas Jake is very much ashamed of his strange-looking wife, she tries to lighten the atmosphere up by making a joke about the term for the evening meal which Jake has just told her about: The “irresistible pun” is that “dinner” in Yiddish means “thinner,” whereas in English dinner is something which makes you get fatter. The pun is possible here because both the language and lifestyle in America are quite the opposite of the Jewish.
Although it was interesting to look at the situation of immigrants at the end of the 19th century, nobody was particularly fascinated by this text, and so we skipped the analysis and opinion questions in order to have a quick look at the next text, which we are supposed to read for Monday, 24 Jan.: “New York” by Joan Didion (p. 220).
This concluded our single lesson, and we’ll have our round of oral marks on Thursday, telling everybody a “fishy story” to explain the situation on our activity and time cards. I wonder whether looking at an aquarium would be a good idea to prepare for this ...