hungarian immigrants to canada Essay
To what extent does the novel or memoir you have chosen provide useful insights into the topic mentioned?
John Marlyn’s ‘Under the Ribs of Death’ is concerned with the life of Sandor Hunyadi, a young Hungarian living in Canada. The novel follows his life as a young boy, and then as a young man in the years before the Great Depression. Sandor’s efforts to find his place within Canadian society are a dominant theme of the novel, as is the problem of poverty. Perhaps the all-encompassing term which would define Sandor’s life is struggle.
Sandor’s home life can be seen in terms of a constant struggle against poverty. Like many other Hungarian immigrants, Sandor’s father is a janitor, a low-paid, menial job. Hungarians brought with them few skills fit for the Canadian job market, and were often employed in jobs with low wages, and were highly exploited by the Canadian employers. Sandor himself was shocked and upset when he heard his father being talked down to by his employer, but this type of treatment was common for Hungarian immigrants to Canada, who were subjected to prejudice and hate. Although being shocked by his father’s treatment, Sandor is very aware of the prejudice against immigrants. He shows this from an early age when he tells his parents that “the only people who count are the English … ’cause when you’re English it’s the same as bein’ Canadian”, and because of this prejudice he is determined to demonstrate that he is as Canadian as everyone else. His pride of sharing his birthday with Victoria Day is clear evidence that he is proud to be Canadian, as is his absolute fervour over obtaining a flag. The most obvious symbol of Sandor’s desire to assimilate is his decision to change his name. Sandor’s name has always caused him problems with the Canadians, and from his encounter with Mrs Crawford when he became Alex Humphrey, to his later decision to become Alex Hunter, he has always felt that his foreign name was a h…