Out of This Furnace
Out of this Furnace, by Thomas Bell, tells the story of a multigenerational family of Slovakian immigrants. This family of five generations came to American in the late nineteenth century in search of a better life. One of the first to arrive, Djuro Kracha, arrived in the New World in the middle of the 1880s. The novel starts off telling of his voyage from the “old country” and the labor he performed to accumulate enough money for his walk to Pennsylvania. He ventured on his journey to Pennsylvania in the search for a job in the steel mills.
The story also tells of his rejection by the mainstream community as a “hunkey,” and the lives of his daughter and grandson. Soon enough though, the family becomes somewhat acculturate and even “Americanized,” and they soon become to resent the treatments they suffer. Their slow rise to business ownership was quickly ended by a series of events; a summer of Djuro’s drinking habit, Djuro’s return to his work in the steel mills, Mary’s marriage to a worker in the mills, and Djuro’s grandson’s disagreements with unfair labor prices.
These events eventually intertwine with America’s transformation of the 1880’s to the 1940’s. During the 1880’s to the 1940’s, a wave of Eastern European immigrants grew in America, triggered by growing industries and advancing technology. This soon led to the establishment of steel mills, other factories, and plants which reshaped the American labor force. The experiences of Djuro and Mike, Mary’s husband, reflect a level of hostility towards Europeans from “mainstream” Americans and earlier. Without a doubt, the Kracha’s were negatively affected by stereotypes and attributions.
However, the men and women who desired citizenship in the New World, Bell suggested only desired it to improve their lives and the futures of their families. Bell does not portray any immigrants who fail to accept the necessity of hard work. Therefore, Djuro’s minor episode of drunkenness shouldn’t take away from the years of efficient and effective work he completed to achieve his “American dream. ” Another point Bell seemed to make clear was that Mike’s idealism was a consequence of his own desire to participant in that dream.
The novel is set at a time when most people believed that the diverse ethnic groups entering the United States actually had a damaging effect on culture. Dobie Dobrejcak wanted to improve working conditions, treatments, economic prospects, and the lives of working men. His beliefs of possible social transformation actually confirmed the American Dream and the willingness of people to chase their dreams, even against great odds. The majority of immigrant groups that traveled to America went in search of freedom and economic opportunity.
These immigrants, in all actuality, made huge contributions to the growth of the country. Westward expansion was made possible for workers, even today; immigrants work jobs that might have otherwise gone begging. Thomas Bell even argues that the Jews, Catholics, the Irish and the Slavs were the ones that made America’s achievements and progresses possible. Bell uses Mike and Mary’s lives to reference the Americans’ want and demand for immigrants during expansion, and to express how out of favor immigrants were during America’s recessions.
As the 1920s came around, recession and depression made immigrant workers unpopular and unnecessary. This novel tremendously expresses the lives of immigrants like the Kracha’s and Dobrejcak’s and explains their want to achieve parity and equality. In the book, however, the term “American” did not change. The thing that truly changed was the determination to work against forces trying to prevent the family from entering the mainstream society. To truly understand the “American Experience” an immigrant had to realize that it was not a classical experience.
It is known that early colonists and new immigrants coming to the United States had the same dreams and values. To them, the New World represented land opportunity, freedom of religion, the ability to overcome an aristocratic Old World, and the freedom to develop one’s own wishes. The topic of immigration in America has always sparked massive controversy. Some people believed anyone had the right to move from country to country as they pleased. Others thought the immigrant population actually benefitted the country by facilitating economic growth, development, and prosperity.
The Americans against immigration mainly focused on the differences of new cultural groups. Mostly though, the Native American party argued that the country was about to receive a threat due to the massive increase in the “body of residents of foreign birth, imbued with foreign feelings, and of ignorant and immoral character who receive the elective franchise and the right of eligibility to political offices. ” Others thought that new immigrants hurt American society because of their lack of education, their impoverishment, lack of skill and their Catholic and Jewish religions.
Early opposition to specific immigrants was focused on any groups perceived as inferior to the Anglo-Saxon stock. Disagreements on immigration focused mainly on the immigrant’s lack of adaptability based on different ethnic groups. The views of non-immigrants were that; foreigners lower the intelligence, efficiency, and orderliness plane, they increased alcoholism, crime, and immorality, the barriers of speech, education, and religious faith cause divisions, and that immigrants add to the number of poor people, tend to be illiterate, and cause overpopulation.
Early settlers of the United States were a mixture of whites, Anglo- Saxons, and immigrants. Every ethnic group that has come into the United States has helped shape the American dream and shared that experience, rather happily or not. A major shaping of our economic system resulted from the influence of immigration that helped bring dramatic changes in our population census. The United States of America can mean a variety of different things to several different people.
The core of the “American dream” is without a doubt, freedom and equality. However, this nation was founded on republican principles of justice for all, friendship with all nations, and alliances with none. Since then, these principles have undergone several changes. For example, today the United States has many “alliances” that influence its domestic and foreign policies. Nevertheless, “justice for all” remains intact and continuously attracts new immigrants each year, while trying to determine what really constitutes “justice and equality. ”