What are the foremost hardships that Levinsky experiences as an immigrant in America? How do these compare to the hardships he experienced growing up in Russia?

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In addition to arriving in New York alone and in abject poverty, with four cents in his pocket, David Levinsky has to completely adjust to new ways of life and learn English. Beginning with trying to sleep in a synagogue, where back home he would have been welcomed, he has to establish entire social networks from nothing. Because he is Jewish, however, other Jews do come to his assistance, beginning with helping with finances and even giving him clothing. David’s initial efforts to establish himself as a peddler are failures. Although he begins to succeed in business, he loses much of his religious practice, ultimately shaving his beard.

Back in Russia, however, his life had long been bleak. After his father died, David grew up in a small town with his mother. Anti-Semitism claimed her life, however, when she intervened to try to stop other boys from beating David up. Pursuing religious studies at Yeshiva was another disrupted aspect of the orphaned David's life. Deciding first to leave town, he later embarked for America.

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Arriving in America with just pennies in his pocket, Levinsky again begins life in poverty in a new land. Born a poor, Russian Jew, Levinsky experiences countless hardships during his lifetime, both in Russia and America.

In both countries, he struggles with outside acceptance of his faith and heritage. In Russia, Levinsky faces beatings, pogroms, discrimination, and persecution for identifying with his Jewish roots. He lacks true, loyal friends and family members. After the murder of his mother, Levinsky flees to America. While gaining far more opportunities to advance and be free in America, Levinsky again faces the challenge of fully embracing his heritage as a Russian Jew and experiences a lonely life of personal crossroads.

In both lands, Levinsky sacrifices much to survive—most of all, his own identity and integrity. In Russia, Levinsky fights for physical, economic, and spiritual survival. In capitalistic America, Levinsky fights for personal, moral, economic, and spiritual survival as he faces a cut-throat and demanding world of compromise, exploitation, temptation, and manipulation. In both countries, Levinsky struggles with feelings of emptiness and a lack of self-worth.

Although he eventually makes millions in America and is an extremely successful businessman, Levinsky is still alone, as he felt in Russia, with no one to share his accomplishments. Both lands feel cold and empty to him. As Levinsky voraciously attacks his work without apology in America, he compromises his personal, traditional, and spiritual convictions in order to succeed; he treats others with emotional detachment and disregard in order to get ahead. He uses women to try to meet his needs, but he is always emotionally detached.

Additionally, Levinsky feels that he does not fit in either land, as he is suspended between two worlds in each nation. In Russia, Levinsky is torn between his Russian Jewish Orthodox beliefs and Russian Orthodox Church doctrine. In America, Levinsky is torn between his traditional European Jewish community and the greater American gentile community. Just as he was orphaned at a young age in Russia, Levinsky fails to ever truly find a home in America, as well.

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