Yet David gives off an evident sense of naiveté. In his first scene, he speaks to Vera about “happy immigrants” arriving from various European countries. He comments about watching joyful people walking through Ellis Island. However, it is obvious that he has not witnessed a large part of America. Noticeably missing from his discussion are Native Americans and African Americans as well as the many deserving immigrants who were denied admission into the country on arbitrary bases.
Left: A movie adaptation of The Melting Pot shows David enamoring Vera with his optimism as Mendel watches in the background. (Photo credit: IMdB)
Zangwill came from a Jewish background. Born in England as a son of Eastern European immigrants, he attended a Jewish school and grew up around other members of his own religion. He held intimate knowledge of their plight in ghettos and often wrote about them in his works.
Right: Israel Zangwill, the author of the play. (Public Domain)
After reaching adulthood, he had several impactful conversations with Zionist leaders, including Theodore Herzl, and soon espoused the movement. However, his passion for a Jewish homeland could potentially have led to his tunnel vision concerning other racial populations. He wrote in The English Illustrated Magazine, “Palestine has but a small population of Arabs and fellahin and wandering, lawless, blackmailing Bedouin tribes” (Zangwill 423). He callously dismisses any right that the Arabs had to Palestine, going so far as to insult their way of life, in order to write in support of the Zionist movement, which on its own is an admirable cause.
Left: Theodore Herzl, a leader of the Zionist movement. (Public Domain)
As Zangwill’s representative, David Quixano as a character represents a lack of consideration of the multitude of factors that would damage the idealistic vision of the United States. David exclaims, “America is God’s Crucible, the great Melting-Pot where all the races of Europe are melting and re-forming! Here you stand, good folk, think I, when I see them at Ellis Island” (Zangwill 81). The boy speaks in a moment of passion when describing the wonders of moving into the country.
Right: A literal crucible, referencing the manuscript that David wrote to be performed in front of the poor. The idea of a crucible ignores many crucial points about America. (Photo credit: Noventools)
Missing entirely from the story is talk about Native Americans. A large part of David’s argument is the idea that crossing the Atlantic Ocean wipes out the horror of one’s past, replacing it with the freedom of America. However, Native Americans had no opportunity to do so, a concept that goes unaddressed by Zangwill. The author chooses to focus on the races with whom he has the most familiarity, Europeans. As a result, he manages to ignore large parts of the dark history of the United States, including the forceful removal of Native Americans from their native lands, a torturous process that David himself went through in Russia. Diana Taylor argues that America should be viewed in a hemispheric sense rather than referring only to the United States. She espouses a true sense of the country, one that derives its sources from the myriad of peoples that formed it. While David and Zangwill believe that they are doing the same thing, their exclusion of a number of important points hints otherwise.
Left: The population of Native Americans in the Untied States is still rather significant. However, David does not recognize their presence at any point during his discussion about his optimism about America. (Photo credit: Domen from Wikipedia)