(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

After some time of not meeting him, Tevye the Milkman meets Sholom Aleichem, the story’s primary narrator as well as its author, and begins to tell of the troubles that have come on him (turning his hair gray) because of his gullibility, fatalism, and obedience to God, which make him an easy target for misfortune.

His latest trouble, as most always, involves marrying off his daughters by means of the traditional arrangements. Hodel, like many young people of her age, is thirsty for an education and has learned to read both Yiddish and Russian from a young university student, Pertschik (known as Feferel). Hodel met Feferel because of a chance happening in which her father played a part. One day, on his way home from delivering his dairy goods to the nearby summer vacation spot for the well-to-do of Boiberik (Aleichem’s fictional name for the town of Boira), Tevye sees Feferel and offers the young man a ride.

Tevye’s conversation with the sharp-tongued youth (as they ride together) reveals the latter’s socialistic sentiments; the son of a local cigarette maker, Feferel expresses contempt for his own class for not sharing their possessions with the poor. Impressed by the lad’s talkativeness, Tevye invites him for dinner, which henceforth precipitates Feferel’s daily return visits. In return for his meals, the young man agrees to provide Tevye’s daughters (six are left now) with lessons.

The only fault that Tevye finds in Feferel is his tendency to vanish suddenly, only to return several days later venting his anger toward the wealthy classes—possessors of money, the root of all evil on earth—while extolling the simple virtues of the poor.

Along with their “philosophical” conversations, Tevye soon learns of Feferel’s admiration for his daughter Hodel. On the following day, while in Boiberik, Tevye happens on...

(The entire section is 767 words.)