the fiddler

This weekend I saw the “Fiddler on the Roof” at a local community theater. It was my first time watching a musical at a community theater, so I didn’t really know what to expect. It turned out that the performances were surprisingly decent and the ticket prices were less than half what they would have been at one of the bigger theaters, so I’ll probably be watching more community theater productions.

The story in ‘The Fiddler on the Roof’ centers around the family of Tevya, a poor Jewish milkman living in Russia. Tevya has five daughters, the oldest three are of marriageable age. Tevya is a very traditional man, (in fact the opening song is about Jewish tradition), and wants his daughters married according to Jewish tradition. Each of his daughters’ marriages move farther and farther away from the Jewish traditions that he holds on to.

The eldest daughter is arranged to marry the town butcher, who is much much older than her, but Tevya agrees to the marriage, thinking his daughter will be better off by marrying the rich butcher. But she instead wants to marry her childhood friend the tailor, despite the fact that he is very poor, and so she convinces the tailor to ask her father to allow them to be married. Tevya is stunned and angered by the breach in tradition but eventually relents and allows them to get married.

The second daughter falls in love with a Marxist revolutionary, who gets called away to Kiev to work for the revolution. Before he leaves he asks for her hand in marriage. Tevya initially refuses, but after some soul searching allows them to get married. He realizes the world is changing, and his daughters are marrying for love instead of through the Jewish tradition of matchmaking. Tevya, who himself had an arranged marriage with his wife, asks his wife if she loves him. (Funny how the topic never came up during 25 years of marriage). She dismisses the question as foolish, but eventually admits that she does in fact love him.

The third daughter falls in love with a Russian. This is where Tevya draws the line, he cannot allow his daughter to marry a non Jewish man. She ends up eloping with the Russian, leaving Tevya wondering where he went wrong.

The story ends rather abruptly with the Jews being kicked out of Russia. Tevya, his wife, and his two remaining daughters pack their belongings, planning to move to America. The story ends with the fiddler playing a song on his violin. Tevya nods to the fiddler and the fiddler follows along on the family’s journey to America.

I didnt’ really understand the whole part about the fiddler, so I looked it up. According to Wikipedia The Fiddler is a metaphor for survival, through tradition and joyfulness, in a life of uncertainty and imbalance. So that makes sense. The story ends rather abruptly, with the family scattered but I guess the fiddler traveling with Tevya symbolizes that life goes on.

Despite the obvious differences (Jews living in Russia versus Koreans living in America, and five daughters versus two sons) the family in the story actually kind of reminds me of my family.

My parents weren’t really an arranged marriage, but I’ve often wondered if they really love each other. In truth I thought they would divorce as soon as my bro and I finished college (maybe that’s a subconscious reason why neither my bro and I finished our four year degrees.) But I guess they’re better nowadays, they’ve learned to live with each other, so I guess that’s some sort of love.

My dad kind of reminds me of Tevya. Lately he’s been really getting on my case about marriage, getting to the point where he’s actually even arranged dates for me. A few months back I got into a huge argument with him about how stupid I thought it was that he was arranging these dates. My dad’s not an overly traditional person, but I guess in his generation people would’ve been married by the time they’re thirty. Nowadays people are getting married later, and I’m not sure why, but for some reason I always thought that thirty-two would be the age that I would want to get married. And he wouldn’t really outright say it, but I’m pretty sure he’d want my bro and I to marry a Korean girl, even though neither my bro nor I have dated a Korean girl for any real length of time. So I guess that’s where the ‘tradition’ is with my dad– probably like Tevya he will be forced to live with his offspring turning away from those traditions.

Things I’m thankful for:

  • cheap tickets for musicals
  • stories that make me think about my own life
  • despite not knowing how to play violin, the fiddle continues to play

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