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Posted August 4, 2014
The Open Cage is a book comprised of short stories of Jewish immigrants who come to America looking for the land of opportunity to be exactly what it claims to be. Some people come to America for love, some for freedom, and others for money. Everyone ends up disappointed in the end. While some characters get what they were looking for the end results and effects aren’t what they expected.
The book tells the stories of Jewish immigrants who come to America looking to build a better tomorrow for themselves. One by one we see people immigrate to America with high hopes. It’s established early that in order to find love or anything else you want in America you need money. This sets the tone for the rest of the book. One by one we observe characters leaving their homes to start a life in America so that one day their families can join them. We see how quickly class can ruin relationships that once burned bright with the deepest love.
Every character doesn’t struggle their entire lifetime. The book shows us characters who had nothing but their children became very successful and thus bought fortune to the family. Every perspective is explored and it adds to the books depth. Readers don’t just experience the struggle of the immigrants working to keep food on the table but also the greed of America and its dog eat dog nature. Religion and success are explored and the topic of which one is more important. Fame, adjusting to new surroundings, and charity are all explored as well. Being able to express multiple view point on a broad but very connected topic is what makes this book so enjoyable because it leaves no stone unturned.
The book tackles what it means to be American. Many children of these immigrants are very similar and often more extreme than Richard Rodriguez in The New American Scholarship Boy. To their parents, being American was living in the country, getting a job, becoming successful. To their children being American is speaking proper English, displaying proper table etiquette, and dressing fashionably. It is such a profound relationship because the same education parents knew would help their children make something of themselves lead to their children no longer wanting to associate with them.
Here is where we learn what America’s true values as a society are and how much they have or haven’t changed over time. The biggest concern in this book aside from love and family is money. Families are at constant war about what’s more important, God, money, love, success and what that entails.
I would recommend this book to anyone. There are many lessons to be learned. For people who would like to explore the topic of immigration and the hardship that entails this is a great read. Likewise if you would like to explore family relationships and the power of greed as it exist in America this book is for you also. Wherever there is pain there is growth and this book has plenty.