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Out of This Furnace Essay

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Assignment #1- Out of This Furnace Essay Most people have probable heard that many immigrants came to the US in the past for money (jobs), wealth, and a better life. But were most immigrants this successful? In the novel, Out of This Furnace by Thomas Bell, comes a story about the life of the Slovak immigrants working and struggling to survive in America. With the start of the period of industrialization consuming the country, large amounts of cheap unskilled laborers immigrated to the US and were employed to work for long hours with low wages in the US industries. This novel shows the struggle of three generations of Slovak immigrants working in the US mills enduring the poverty, filth, and poor living conditions that were associated with the steel cities at the time. The novel had four parts with a main character in each- Kracha, Mike Dobrejcak, Mary, and Dobie. And as time goes on I the novel, the reader finds that all of these main characters are in some way different from and similar to each other. The novel begins in 1881, when Djuro Kracha first arrives in America and works in the Braddock steel mills in PA. This is technically when his family goes into the furnace or into the struggle for a better life. After a couple years Kracha decides to open a butcher shop and he gets consumably rich. But due to debts and adultery, Kracha eventually loses everything he owns and goes back to working in the mills. ...read more.


Though he works in the mill all his life from the time he arrived in America when he was about 14-15 years old, till the time he dies in 1917 at the age of 47, Mike is continually very attentive to what's going on. At the age of 25, Mike was promoted to helper in the mills- a position less dangerous and less difficult with the same pay. He took English classes on his free time (p.120). He does things more than let things happen to him. When Mike's daughter Pauline was born in November, Mike cast his first vote that month. When Mike realized that no matter how good times were, he was always in debt and no matter how hard he worked he still had the same amount of money as he did ten ears age he decided to do something about it. So he opened a boarding house with six boarders who helped them survive the winter and by spring they were free of debt and had extra money to spend. When Mike started to go over his 30's, work started to get tougher for him. And when Mary couldn't take care of the boarders anymore due to her pregnancy, things went down after they got rid of the boarders. But overall, Mike was a devoted husband and good father. He set a good example for his kids to follow and Johnny countless times mentioned how he wished his father could have seen hum when he was working in the union. ...read more.


With each generation of the Slovak family working and growing up in the steel cities, one gets the idea of how the US industries came to be to what it is today. This novel has not only helped me to understand my city's, Pittsburgh's, past and why it's called the steel city, but it has also given me the idea of how life was for the immigrants that came to Pittsburgh to work on a daily basis. This book also shows how the relationship between management and labor has evolved during the 18th-20th century. Owners of the mills were racist against people like the Slovaks whom they called "Hunkies." And workers didn't have political freedom and didn't have a say in what went on at work. Mike once described that there were Irish people who just got to America and were promoted to higher ranks in the steel mills right away when men like himself who've been working at the mill for twenty years were given orders by those newly arrived Irish men. There was a never ending struggle between the workers and owners of the mile and strikes were mentioned often in the book. Some of the strikes were finished in violence and deaths. Overall the relationship between the mill owners and workers were never good and it got worse during Mike and Dobie's time. Only when the company men broke down and agreed to sign a contract for a union did the workers finally get freedom and a better life. This book was very interesting and it was nice to learn about the lives of other immigrants. ...read more.

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