All Sara Smolinsky wanted was to be a person.
For our Russian Jew immigrant protagonist of Bread Givers, it would take much of her formative years to figure out how to do that. She had to become independent of the ways of her family, and the Old World, where “only men were people.”  For Sara, she finds that her only path to achieving the independence necessary to being someone in America is through education.
The most striking issue with Sara was her insistence that, for most of her story, she was not yet a person at all. Sara was a product of both her Jewish upbringing and also self-made, materialistic ideals of America. She was female and she was Jewish, and was therefore supposed to exist for the men in her life: first her father and then, one day, a husband. Stepping outside that sacred relationship was an audacious sin, and her father let her know it while cursing her out for her ungodly ambitions. “You’re not a person at all. What do you make from yourself? Why do you hold yourself better than the whole world?” 
Sara’s “blood and iron” spirit and determination led her to believe that there was something more for her in life than to serve her father and a future husband. She was also poor and uneducated, and those were problems for Sara, the American. She struggled through her youth to figure out what would make her that real person who she wanted to be. Earning her own money selling herring or working at the laundry gave her the means to buy material things. Money wasn’t the key ingredient of being a person, though. Sara saw this in the way her sister Fania’s marriage to a rich man she had not chosen had crushed her.
Nu, independence was Sara’s ticket. “I want to learn something. I want to some day make myself for a person and come among people. But how can I do it if I live in this hell house of Father’s preaching and Mother’s complaining?”
Living on her own, paying for her own night school, and then moving away to college to become a teacher was her calling. With her achievements, money would come. It was not until she graduated college when she could finally say “Sara Smolinksy, from Hester Street, changed into a person!”
Though she had many misgivings toward the men who would enter her life, Sara did not reject the idea of marriage. She did not wish to be fully independent from men forever. She had told her mother “I’ll even get married some day. But to marry myself to a man that’s a person, I must first make myself for a person.” To find a good match, Sara needed to become more than wife to the man.
Her desire to be seen as her own person was evident with her dismissal of Max Goldstein. Surely he was a person in America with his wealth and influence. His disrespect of her quest for an education, however, was a deal breaker for Sara. It was not until she had truly made herself a person, in returning to New York as a teacher that Sara could be appreciated by a potential husband. Hugo Seelig comes along at the end of her story, and with his similar background to Sara’s and his similar ambitions can understand and respect the person she had become.
 Anzia Yezierska, Bread Givers (New York: Persea Books, 1975), 205.
 Ibid, 206.
 Ibid, 66.
 Ibid, 237.
 Ibid, 172.