David Schearl, a Jewish boy who leaves Russia with his mother to settle in New York City, where his father has recently established himself. David is extraordinarily sensitive, and it is through his senses and intellect that the life of the immigrant city comes to life. He is fiercely attached to his protective mother and afraid of his harsh father, who scorns David and suspects that his son actually is the offspring of his wife’s affair with another man. The curious David makes friends with Leo, an Irish boy, and learns in rather crude fashion about Catholicism and the habits of other immigrant children. David struggles to understand and to articulate his experiences.
Genya Schearl, David’s sympathetic and fatalistic mother. She arrives in America with her son and is greeted grudgingly by her suspicious husband. He has had a difficult time settling in this new country and jumps on every word of hers that suggests to him that she is not supportive or understanding of his plight. She is patient and tries to placate him, but he knows that she does not put him first in her heart. It is David to whom she is devoted and David whom she will defend when the frustrated father tries to beat him. She tries to do the best by her husband, but she is unfaithful to him and cannot overcome the estrangement that her husband only worsens by his unforgiving and relentlessly cruel treatment of her and...
(The entire section is 518 words.)