Read and Analyze the novel “Out of This Furnace In Out of this Furnace” by Thomas Bell

1302 Paper guideline: Out of This Furnace In Out of this Furnace, Thomas Bell attempts to describe, on generational level, the immigrant experience beginning in the Gilded Age and up through the Great Depression of the 1930s. In the context of this history, Bell emphasizes several key components of the immigrant experience including the role of labor, unionization and politics as a means to better illustrate the some of the more critical influences that impacted this particular group.

In a paper that addresses this work, you should concern yourself with the following: A) Provide a general description of what occurs among the major characters.

•In the description component you are responsible for outlining a comprehensive description of the central actors and actions that make up the narrative of this work.

•The assessment of this section will be related to how well you adequately describe the entire work.

B) Analyze the larger themes, issues and questions that are important to understanding this period and group, such as: the immigrant experience, the historical context of this period, the nature of labor for this group, and the role of unions and politics for this group.

•For the analysis component, you should concentrate on answering SOME of the questions within each section as outlined on the reading guide.

•The assessment of this section will be related to how well you are able to address the major topics within each section (the immigrant experience, the historical context of this period, the nature of labor for this group, and the role of unions and politics for this group) as related to the major characters of the book.

Notes: A) For paper formatting: MLA

•While there are not a specific number of quotes you should use, be judicious as papers using a lot of quotes as a means to fulfill the page requirement will be subject to penalty.

•Avoiding the use of the first person in the paper. This is a straightforward analysis of what BELL is describing and NOT how YOU feel about Kracha, et. al. – avoid this like the plague.

C) Plagiarism Policy: Plagiarism is a serious offense and students who plagiarize will suffer harsh penalties. Examples of plagiarism include, but are not limited to, the use of someone else’s words or ideas without attribution and directly copying (or cutting and pasting) material from a book, textbook, or website without citation. Under no circumstances will excuses be accepted–when in doubt ask.

D) Citation: In order to avoid plagiarism all work that you chose to either quote or paraphrase must be cited. Citation may consist of either MLA or Chicago format.

Reading Guide: Out of This Furnace: A Novel of Immigrant Labor in America, by Thomas Bell, 1941.

•This reading guide is designed to help outline and specify certain themes and events that occur as well as the important context in which they occur.

•However, it is intended as a guide only, and not something that you will necessarily have to rely upon if you choose not to use it.

In your analysis of the novel, consider the following issues, themes, and questions:

I. The Immigrant Experience:

1.The novel covers three generations of Slovak immigrants: George Kracha (also known as Djuro and Dzedo), Mike Dobrejcak and Mary Kracha Dobrejcak, and Johnny (Dobie) Dobrejcak. How do their experiences differ with regard to work, community, views on politics and unions, attitudes regarding the steel mill, expectations, views and relationships with other ethnic/national origins groups? How did their experiences differ, and how were they similar, regarding living and working conditions?

2.Note Bell’s review of the history of the Braddock steel mill and its work force on pages 121-125.

3.Compare the life and work of the novel’s main characters with what you learned about late 19th and early 20th century immigrants from the text and from lecture.

4.Note the ethnic patterns of Braddock neighborhoods. Note how Braddock neighborhoods changed with changes in the mill labor force. Note the ethnic patterns of the mill labor hierarchy.

5.The Slovak immigrants in Bell’s book usually lived on the margins of subsistence. Why were they so poor? Why was it so difficult to “make ends meet”? Why was it so difficult to change their circumstances? To “move up” in the world? How, and why, did the circumstances of Dobie’s and Julie’s compare with those of Kracha, Dorta and Dubik, Mike and Mary?

II. Historical Context:

1.Bell’s novel is about the lives of several Slovak immigrants and their families. As he writes about their lives, hardships, relationships, joys and sorrows, he takes care to provide a larger historical context. Note, for example, Bell’s references to

•Homestead Strike, 1892

•The explosion of the “Maine” and the Spanish-American War

•1896 election

•Coxey’s Army

•The boom and bust business cycle

•Teddy Roosevelt, Taft’s election

•Andrew Carnegie and Carnegie libraries (Andrew Carnegie provided most of the funding for over 2000 libraries in the United States).

•World War I and declining immigration before and during WW I.


•Labor strikes following WW I

•The great depression of the 1930s, Section 7a of National Industrial Recovery Act, Wagner Act

III. Labor:

1.How did the main characters feel about their work? About the steel company? Did this change over time, over generations?

2.Who made up the labor force? To what extent did ethnicity or immigrant status (how long in the US) affect who did what in the mills? How did the ethnic or racial composition of the labor force change over time? Note Bell’s comments about the differences between Kracha’s and Mike’s generation regarding their expectations of work and or life.

3.How steady, or predictable, was employment? What about the spells of underemployment?

4.Consider Mike’s musings with his friend Stefan Bodnar about being Slovak and about work in the mill.

5.What happened to the work schedule at the Braddock steel mill as the 1930s depression deepened?

6.What benefits did the steel mill workers have?

7.What work did the Slovak women in Braddock do? The lives and labor of the female characters, especially Elena, Dorta, and Mary, are revealed throughout the book. Can you describe a day’s work for the wife of a mill worker? Why did women “take in boarders?” What was involved in “taking in boarders”?

8.How did the absence of family planning information and safe, reliable methods of birth control affect the lives of married women in Braddock?

IV. Unionization and Politics:

1.What does Bell report about the Homestead Strike of 1892? What was the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers?

2.Why was there no union-organizing activity at the Braddock steel mill during while Mike Dobrejcak worked there? Why didn’t Mike get involved in union organizing?

3.Why did Mike support William Jennings Bryan in the 1896 election? Why was Kracha hesitant to display a campaign poster for Bryan’s candidacy?

4.After the National Industrial Recovery Act, with section 7(A), was passed in 1933, the Braddock mill organized an Employee Representative Plan. What was this? What did Dobie and some of the other mill workers think about it? Also, the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers began organizing in the Braddock mill. Do you understand how the ERP worked? What did the Amalgamated try to do?

5.Note the effect that the Wager Act (the National Labor Relations Act, 1935) had on prospects for union organizing.

6.What grievances did Dobie and other members of the Amalgamated have against the company by 1935?

7.What was the Steel Workers Organizing Committee and its relationship to the Congress of Industrial Organization.

8.Why does U.S. Steel finally agree to sign a contract with SWOC/CIO?

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