Upon talking with Chaim, one of his neighbors on the mail coach, Peretz listens to Chaim’s stories about his married life. Chaim comments on his wife’s desire to become knowledgeable by saying, “She wants, she says, to read. Read what? Polish, German, even the Yiddish translation of the Bible, so long as it is something to read…I would pick up some books for her…I used to translate a page of Gemara for her each evening…Now the situation became reverse. She read to me…” (109). Peretz is able to comment on the modern idea that women are interested in becoming more learned. By entering the market place, women are able to partake in learning new languages and therefore are starting to take a larger role in modern society.
Chaim is confused as to why his wife would want to take part in education, since it is considered to be in the man’s domain. Although, he is puzzled at his wife’s request, Chaim gives in and buys her books. For Chaim’s wife, it is not enough that her husband bought her novels; she also wants to be a part of the formal learning that takes place in the Beit Midrash. Chaim’s wife is an example of 19th century women becoming more aware of what is occurring in the world.
Peretz focuses on the dynamics between a husband and his wife in the family life setting. In the modern world, novels are becoming a symbol for being more productive and more academic. Women, in general, are becoming restless, while their husbands study in the Beit Midrash all day. Chaim’s wife is carrying on that she wants to be a part of her husband’s academic world, even though the Gemurah says that as a woman, she is not permitted to study it. Not only does she want to read a novel, but she also wants to partake in the studying that occurs in the Beit Midrash. She wants to become more knowledgeable and scholarly, similar to Chaim, rather than taking care of the household all the time. Chaim’s wife is able to overcome the language barrier by learning the new languages when entering the market in order to collect all the items she needs for the household. It is a very forward-thinking idea, according to Peretz, that a woman is interested in entering the world of her husband. The role of the woman is understood to be in the home, taking care of the children and the house; now, Peretz is demonstrating to show that women are going to push through the barrier of inequality between men and women.
Peretz, I.L. “In the Mail Coach” The I.L. Peretz Reader. New Heaven: Yale University Press, 2002. Print.