The Americanization of Shadrach Cohen is a story by Bruno Lessing in which he contrasts a Jewish father to his two sons. The father holds to his origins and religion, but the sons have entered themodern world of America, and become detached of their origins. They want their father to be “Americanized”, but the father cannot stand the situation any longer, so he rebels. Finally, the father andthe sons are all “Americanized”, but they still keep their Jewish identity.
Shadrash Cohen, however, does not become “Americanized” overnight. In fact the process of his “Americanization” consists ofthree distinct phases: passiveness, rebellion, then reconciliation with the new world.
From the time he set his foot in America, Shadrach was surprised not only by this new world which wascompletely different from his, but also by the way his own sons were dressed and the way they saw things. He was “distressed and puzzled” to see that in the course of five years (a short time for an oldreligious man) his sons had changed so much. Whenever he tried to bring them back to him, he felt they were moving further away. They refused to pray after meals, kept asking him to change his looks andeven blamed him for being “old- fashioned” and for not trying to progress. During all this time, Shadarach did not react. He was patient with his sons and kept giving them any amount of money theyneeded for their business. He always kept his temper by keeping his lips “shut tightly” or “tightly pressed” for some time before speaking.
Then Shadrach’s rebelled when he realized that his belovedsons were ashamed of him. Resenting his old-fashioned ways was thing, but being ashamed of him was another. At this stage he could see shame in treating them like little boys. He now was the sort ofauthoritarian father who commanded and gave orders by using expressions like “at once”, “in five minutes”, “I don’t want” or “no more talking”. He prohibited that they smoked in front of him and even...
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