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Thomas Bell “Out of This Furnace”

Thomas bell discussed the day-by-day routine of a workman who worked twelve hours a day, seven days a week. Days and weeks became stressful and only drinking could prick the shell of his fatigue. The slump in steel rail demand which Carnegie claimed had compelled them to increase the workday hours before long vanished. Bell delivers an exceedingly personal reflection on the beginning of the manufacturing of steel in his neighborhood. “So the mills came to Braddock, stripping the hills bare of vegetation, poisoning the river, blackening heaven and earth and the lungs of the workers…” (Bell, 1941, p122).

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In 1892, Andrew Carnegie professed “guardian of the workingman,” formerly an impoverished child from Scotland, was well known as a steel master of the world and popular shareholder in the invincible Carnegie Steel Company. Steelworkers in Pennsylvania dissented against Andrew Carnegie in a crucial fight over the right to systematize the Homestead steel mills.

Andrew in word known as a defender of workers’ rights to unionize stood on the edge to clash with the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers in line to keep his profits and be in command of the industry. Keen to avoid a direct row, he left to Scotland leaving Henry Clay Frick, a sturdy anti-labor man, in control of the Homestead plant. Henry Clay Frick, in absolute control of the firm, incarnated the spirit of the furnace, in the emblem of his trade (Bell, 1941, p 18). Dealing only with individual workers, and imposed work terms without inquiry or discussion; operating the mills with non-union labor.

Both Carnegie and Frick exploited workers to affirm their executive right to run businesses. The employees arranged themselves in the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers, the most organized labor body in the country, comprising mostly of Americans of decision and strength, who fought assiduously for their rights. Carnegie was a commanding corporation; the full management of the company had temporarily been vested on the chairman, Henry Clay Frick. Frick was also the holder of wide-ranging coke fields, where unions were forbidden and the workers were led with an iron hand (Bell, 1941, p40).

Carnegie, Djuro Kracha, and Mike Dobrejcak seem to share some things in common. All were immigrants who had left their countries to pursue the American dream. However, Andrew became very successful and wealthy unlike most of the Slovakian immigrants. Andrew’s background and that of his workers seem to be one of want and poverty. Djuro Kracha, the first of his immediate family unit and of the three cohorts of immigrants who came to the United States of America resembles many immigrants. He had expected to leave behind the vast poverty and cruelty which were the legacy of a Slovak peasant (3) and hoped for a better future by immigrating to America. Initially, Kracha worked in the rail firm before joining homestead. Notwithstanding he refused to ravage away at the mill and became a butcher. Regrettably, he did not succeed in his new business. Eventually, he turned to alcohol to conceal the problems he was facing. His wife together with many women in mill towns had to seek alternative sources of income to ease the economic burdens on their husbands (Bell, 1941, p34)

Mike Dobrejcak was a mill worker, who migrated to America in his teens. He faced the same problems his fellow immigrants had earlier on gone through e.g. low wages and working for long hours. When Mike dies Mary is compensated by the corporation and the neighboring or lodge he is a member of because accidents were frequent in the reality of households trying to survive the harsh economic times, lots of mill workers joined these “clubs”.

One striking thing about Bell’s work is the role of the family during hard times. He brought out the link between Kracha and Dobie: both realize the weight of the family bond as a way of tackling the unkind realities of the outside world. They endured the blast furnaces with the expectation of a better life as well as forcing a social and economic evolution that made life better for many workers, shaping the current state of the country. In any case, their struggle was not in vain (Bell 1941, p28).

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Women in the family also played a great role. Kracha was ignorant to the fact that without his wife, he perhaps would not have been triumphant at all. Life for women in the 20th century was far from enjoyable and indeed difficult. Dubik said. “Put yourself in her place, would you like to live her life?” (Bell, 1941, p 21). Elena was no different from any other woman in sight (22). Women were greatly involved in the success of their men and settling and making a new life was expressed in Bell’s work. Whereas Bell did not major much on women, but their presence was felt at every point of his work. He thrived in exposing the dearth of the industrial revolution as well as its effect on their day-to-day life, and the lives of their families (Bell 1941). Immigrants having left their countries to pursue the American dream struggled through life and inescapably found solace only in their families.

Works cited

Bell, Thomas. Out of This Furnace. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1976. Print.

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