An American in the Making: The Life Story of an Immigrant

By M. E. Ravage; Steven G. Kellman | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I
The Prophet from America

Even an imaginative American, I suppose, must find it very hard to form anything like a just idea of the tremendous adventure involved in the act of immigration. The alien in our midst is too elusive an object for satisfactory study. He changes too rapidly. But yesterday he was a solid citizen in his particular village of Sicily or Rumania, of a piece with his ancestral background, surrounded by friends and kindred, apparently rooted in his native soil. To-day he is adrift in a foreign world, mute and helpless and tragically ridiculous—a soul in purgatory, a human creature cut from its moorings, the most pitiable sight to be met on this earth. To-morrow? Who knows? To-morrow very probably you will find him a prosperous citizen again, very earnestly devoting himself to some strange—until recently undreamed-of—business, giving orders or taking them, even now perhaps a bit discordant against his new setting, and, except for one or two well-hidden scars, none the worse apparently for his translation. Who shall find the patience to follow him in his tortuous career?

What is surely most amazing is that he should have started out at all. Considering the pangs of separation and the risks that warn and threaten him and beset his path, why, you might ask, should he want to emigrate? Is it the dream of avarice? Yes, in part. And the hope of freedom? Without a doubt. But these are general motives and remote. The far-flung clarion call of American liberty and her promise of equal opportunity are the powerful lodestones that draw all immigrants alike. There are more particular motives than these to spur him on. Even freedom and economic independence have a varying meaning to individual aliens. Station in life, and nationality, and age, all play their part in composing his mental picture of America. And, as in war, so also in emigration, there are always immediate causes as well as remote and general ones.

I have myself been asked hundreds of times why I have come to America, and I trust that there was no malice in the question. As a rule,

-13-

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An American in the Making: The Life Story of an Immigrant
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Chronology ix
  • Introduction xiii
  • A Note on the Text xxxiii
  • Contents 5
  • Introduction 7
  • Part One - The Alien at Home 11
  • Chapter I - The Prophet from America 13
  • Chapter II - The Gospel of New York 20
  • Chapter III - The Exodus 27
  • Chapter IV - To America on Foot 31
  • Chapter V - Farewell Forever 38
  • Part Two - The Alien Abroad 45
  • Chapter VI - First Impressions 47
  • Chapter VII - The Immigrant’s America 53
  • Chapter VIII - "How Do You like America?" 58
  • Chapter IX - Ventures and Adventures 66
  • Chapter X - Purifications 78
  • Chapter XI - The Ethics of the Bar 86
  • Part Three - The Education of an American 93
  • Chapter XII - Shirts and Philosophy 95
  • Chapter XIII - The Soul of the Ghetto 104
  • Chapter XIV - The Tragedy of Readjustment 110
  • Chapter XV - The Trials of Scholarship 118
  • Chapter XVI - Off to College 126
  • Part Four - America of the Americans 133
  • Chapter XVII - In the Mold 135
  • Chapter XVIII - The American as He Is 143
  • Chapter XIX - The Fruits of Solitude 151
  • Chapter XX - Harvey 159
  • Chapter XXI - The Romance of Readjustment 168
  • Part Five - Postscript- Twenty Years Later 175
  • Chapter XXII - Jeanne’s Sentimental Pilgrimage 177
  • Chapter XXIII - And My Own 189
  • About the Editor 213
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