What does the story reveal about a clash of values?

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Isaac Bashevis Singer's short story "The Son From America" tells of a son's return home, from America, after forty years. The son has returned with great wealth, hoping to improve the lives of his parents and the villagers. Upon arriving, the son, Samuel, greets his parents and offers to help his mother prepare Sabbath dinner. Overwhelmed by his sudden return, his mother wept, as "women will always be women." Later, as father and son attend synagogue, Samuel asks his father what he did with the money he had sent him. The father replies that he never spent any of it, and it is in a boot at his home.

The son is confused that the money has not been spent. His father simply tells him that they have everything they need—they have a garden, cow, goats, and chickens, which provide them with everything they need. Samuel goes on to question what his father plans on doing with the money. His father states that he is giving it back to his son. The son continues to try to come up with things the money could be spent on to better the lives of his family and even the community. He suggests building a bigger synagogue or a "home for old people." His father insists that there is nothing the money needs to be spent upon. Everyone, including the villagers, has everything they need.

At the end of the story, Samuel is seen touching his checkbook and "letters of credit." He thinks about the "big plans" he had for his parents and the village. He not only brought his own money—he also "brought funds from the Lentshin Society." Yet, "the village needed nothing."

Over the course of the story, one message is clear regarding the clash of values. Money does not mean the same thing to everyone. Samuel comes home with the hope that his fortunes will be able to better the lives of his parents and the villagers. Instead, the villagers and his family do not need his help. They are completely happy with everything that they already have; they need nothing more. Therefore, the clash of values lies in Samuel's idea that money is the one thing which will solve the perceived problems the village possesses. Unfortunately for him, in fact, the village has no problems, let alone those which could be solved by money. There are no robbers, and no one is homeless. The synagogue is plenty large, and his parents need for nothing.

Therefore, the clash of values exists because of the different way the father and son see success and happiness. The son seems to measure success and happiness by what money can buy. The father measures success and happiness by not needing any more than one needs. It seems that the only thing the father needs is the son's presence, not his money.

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