Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of Humanities and Social Sciences



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Maria Giura

Committee Member

Tom Benediktsson

Committee Member

Jonathan Greenberg


This paper will explore the challenges experienced by destitute Eastern and Southern Europeans after migrating to New York City during the late nineteenth century and into the earlier part of the twentieth century. Throughout their Americanization process, these newcomers confronted difficulties in reconciling old world norms with newfound liberties in the land of opportunity. Religion further complicated their lives in terms of tensions created between their belief systems - Orthodox Judaism and Roman Catholicism - pitted against the practices of the mainstream White Anglo Saxon Protestants. The backdrop of a thriving and consumerism environment in New York City ironically furthered their struggles in that these immigrants lacked the means and skills to economically integrate themselves with New York City’s established population. This situation in turn created a clash of the classes. By extension, the element of exploitation will be explored as each group is vulnerable to mistreatment by various American institutions such as private businesses, religious establishments, and government agencies. All of these harsh realities faced by the immigrants served to dishearten their enthusiastic imaginings towards a better life anticipated in the New World. Two novels that reflect such immigrant experiences are Bread Givers by Anzia Yezierska and Christ in Concrete by Pietro Di Donato. Both novels will be analyzed throughout this paper in order to explore the contradictions between dreams of prosperity in America met with disillusionments and despair for these Eastern and Southern European immigrants.

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