Peretz has talks about modernity subtly throughout his works. In “In the Mail Coach,” Peretz is talking to his neighbor Chaim for the short ride there. He is talkative and tells him about his wife from Warsaw. There is a lot of references to the old world, such as the “grimy Jewish boys kheyder” versus “the bright emancipated gymnasium,” and the concept of women not traditionally studying. However, there are many signs where his modernism shows through.
We also see the concept of Jews having to work all day for a living as a new idea, as opposed to studying all day in the cheyder. It’s shown in a passage on p. 106:
“Tell me, I beg you, what good are these stories? I don’t mean yours, of course,” he quickly corrects himself. “God forbid! A Jew must earn a living. Even if he has to squeeze it out of the bare walls – there’s no question – what doesn’t a Jew do for a living? Take my case, for example. I had no other choice but to go by mail coach, and only God knows if I am not, at this very moment, sitting on a ritually forbidden mixture of cloth. But I mean the readers. What do they get out of these stories? Is there anything of value in hem? What do you write in your books? (p. 107)”
We see the concept of men working as a new idea, and a legitimate idea, with there being no other option. On the other hand, we see women working hard for their money too. On the complete opposite end, we also see women wanting to study and read, because they are bored of housework. The author and Chaim have a discussion about this: “a woman doesn’t study Talmud, she takes no part in public affairs, she isn’t even responsible for carrying out the six hundred and thirteen precepts… being bored meant having nothing to do.” The wife begged and cried to please teach her something or let her read.
Modernism is seen in many ways throughout the story, but like a good writer, Peretz only hints to it and doesn’t explain it flat out, leaving it a puzzle for the reader.