Last Updated on August 7, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 722
Here are some quotes from the novel:
- "Sometimes, when I think of my past in a superficial, casual way, the metamorphosis I have gone through strikes me as nothing short of a miracle. I was born and reared in the lowest depths of poverty and I arrived in America in 1885 with four cents in my pocket. I am now worth more than two million dollars and recognized as one of the two or three leading men in the cloak-and-suit trade in the United States. And yet when I take a look at my inner identity it impresses me as being precisely the same as it was thirty or forty years ago. My present station, power, the amount of worldly happiness at my command, and the rest of it, seem to be devoid of significance." This excerpt begins the book, and, in it, David Levinsky reflects on his transformation from poverty to success in America. However, success has not changed his inner being, and he still feels as he did when he was a penniless Talmud student in Russia.
- "If it be true that our people represent a high percentage of mental vigor, the distinction is probably due, in some measure, to the extremely important part which Talmud studies have played in the spiritual life of the race." Levinsky comments on the way in which Talmud studies benefit the mental vigor of the Jewish students who, like him, devote themselves to study.
- "The image of the modest college building was constantly before me. More than once I went a considerable distance out of my way to pass the corner of Lexington Avenue and Twenty-third Street, where that edifice stood. I would pause and gaze at its red, ivy-clad walls, mysterious high windows, humble spires; I would stand watching the students on the campus and around the great doors, and go my way, with a heart full of reverence, envy, and hope, with a heart full of quiet ecstasy." After Levinsky arrives in the United States, he comes to worship secular knowledge over religious knowledge. City College, which then stood on Lexington and 23rd Street in Manhattan, becomes like his synagogue, and he worships its spires, as they stand for knowledge.
- "My old religion had gradually fallen to pieces, and if its place was taken by something else, if there was something that appealed to the better man in me, to what was purest in my thoughts and most sacred in my emotions, that something was the red, church-like structure on the southeast corner of Lexington Avenue and Twenty-third Street. It was the synagogue of my new life." City College becomes Levinsky's new synagogue, and he hopes to become educated before earning money becomes the pursuit of his life....
(The entire section contains 722 words.)
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