This story was frustrating for me to read. The father figure Morris is not really a father at all to Woody taking off and abandoning his family because he simply couldn't live a life like this anymore. This scene is what really makes Woody a man. Through this change in his life, he realizes that he is in charge of what goes on around him. After this scene in the backyard, I think Woody fully takes responsibility of his own life.
The time period in this story is important to note. It takes place during the Great Depression in the 1930s where money is scarce and luxuries are non existent. This is most evident in the scene where Morris and Woody visit Mrs. Skoglund. She is the perfect example of an immigrant who has worked their way up in society even if it was done through her wealthy, late husband. She is someone whom less fortunate people feel they can call upon in their times of desperation (Morris with the $50). I think the silver dish in this story represents all that Woody and his family is not. They are not the picture perfect American view of immigrants who fully realized the American dream. They did not become wealthy and acquire luxuries. Instead, their family is separated with no connections. They instead are dependent on their son to provide them with everything they need to survive.
Religion also plays a significant role in this story. Bellow illustrates it as hypocritical, and materialistic (through Woody getting paid to give false testimony and work, etc.) It is something that this immigrant family tries to turn to for hope and some sort of direction in life but it doesn't really take. Woody and Morris are overtly nonreligious and find no worth in it. Woody's mother and sisters however, pretend that they are fully invested when in reality they are just playing the part. They are truthfully no more religious than Woody and Morris. I think Bellow may be making a statement about religion in this story. Here, it actually keeps families separated and construes Woody's view of the world and reality (Jews and salvation). Does religion still do that today?
Woody is the perfect example of a loner in this story. He has no real connections with any other human being except for maybe his father but it could be argued that they have no connection but instead simply identify with one another. In other words, they are similar but have no emotion or feelings towards the other person. I admire Woody in this story however because he does the right thing when it comes to family. He looks after his mother and sisters who are too poor and helpless to do anything for themselves. He even does the same for his father who walked out on him and his family when he was still only a boy. You have to admire Woody's loyalty to family even if there is no connection there.
One question I have- What is the deal with the woman who smelled like milk? Is she the only person that Woody has ever had any connection with?