By vivibabe Oct 16, Words Cite In his story "A Sweatshop Romance," Abraham Cahan does a good job of creating a clear visual of the activities that occurred at the coat-making factory of Mr. In this story, there are certain propagandistic situations as well as anxieties and concerns that relates to class-consciousness in the twentieth century. According to the story, Mrs. One day, some visitors were invited to the coat-making factory for an "inspection" of the business.
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Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company LEIZER Lipman was one of those contract tailors who are classed by their hands under the head of "cockroaches," which--translating the term into lay English--means that he ran a very small shop, giving employment to a single team of one sewing-machine operator, one baster, one finisher, and one presser.
It faced a dingy little courtyard, and was connected by a windowless bedroom with the parlor, which commanded the very heart of the Jewish markets. Bundles of cloth, cut to be made into coats, littered the floor, lay in chaotic piles by one of the walls, cumbered Mrs. A red-hot kitchen stove and a blazing grate full of glowing flatirons combined to keep up the overpowering temperature of the room, and helped to justify its nickname of sweatshop in the literal sense of the epithet.
Heyman, the operator, with his bared brawny arms, pushed away at an unfinished coat, over which his head, presenting to view a wealth of curly brown hair, hung like an eagle bent on his prey.
This circumstance gave the hands a respite from the restrictions usually placed on their liberties by the presence of the "boss" and the "Missis," and they freely beguiled the tedium and fatigue of their work, now by singing, now by a bantering match at the expense of their employer and his wife, or of each other.
You make me tired. Stuff up your ears, then," Beile retorted, without lifting her head from the coat in her lap. Sing away! Why is David independent? It is so slack everywhere, and you ought to thank God for the steady job you have here," he concluded, pouncing down upon the coat on his machine. Presently he paused to adjust his disheveled jet-black hair, with his fingers for a comb, and to wipe the perspiration from his swarthy, beardless and typically Israelitic face with his shirtsleeve.
While this was in progress, his languid hazel eyes were fixed on the finisher girl. She instinctively became conscious of his gaze, and raised her head from the needle. Her fresh buxom face, flushed with the heat of the room and with exertion, shone full upon the young baster.
Their eyes met. David colored, and, to conceal his embarrassment, he asked: "Well, is he going to raise your wages? So you will now get five dollars a week. Then I am willing to swap wages with you. As to the presser, he is invariably a pieceworker, pure and simple. For a more lucid account of the task system in the tailoring branch, I beg to refer the reader to David, although his exposition happens to be presented rather in the form of a satire on the subject.
Indeed, David, while rather inclined to taciturnity, was an inveterate jester, and what few remarks he indulged in during his work would often cause boisterous merriment among his shopmates, although he delivered them with a nonchalant manner and with the same look of good-humored irony, mingled in strange harmony with a general expression of gruffness, which his face usually wore. But ask Heyman or Beile. The three of us do. A request coming from the finisher was--yet unknown to herself--resistless with David, and in the present instance it loosened his tongue.
The calendars are a lot of liars. A day has twelve coats. David thought himself a very queer fellow. He often wondered at the pranks which his own imagination was in the habit of playing, and at the grotesque combinations it frequently evolved.
As he now stood, leaning forward over his work, he was striving to make out how it was that Meyer reminded him of the figure "7. He contemplated the operator askance, and ran over all the digits of the Arabic system, and even the whole Hebrew alphabet, in quest of a counterpart to the young man, but failed to find anything suitable. It wants a little planing. But for that nose Heyman would really be the nice fellow they say he is.
His snow-white skin--his elegant heavy mustache--yes, if he did not have that nose he would be all right," he maliciously joked in his heart. Entirely too straight, and too--too foolish. Her eyes look old and as if constantly on the point of bursting into tears. Ah, but then her lips--that kindly smile of theirs, coming out of one corner of her mouth! His attentions to her were an open secret. He did not go out of his way to conceal them. On the contrary, he regularly escorted her home after work, and took her out to balls and picnics--a thing involving great sacrifices to a fellow who trembled over every cent he spent, and who was sure to make up for these losses to his pocketbook by foregoing his meals.
And yet all this had been going on now for over three months, and he had not as much as alluded to marriage, nor even bought her the most trifling present. Her mother made life a burden to her, and urged the point-blank declaration of the alternative between a formal engagement and an arrest for breach of promise. Beile would have died rather than make herself the heroine of such a sensation; and, besides, the idea of Heyman handcuffed to a police detective was too terrible to entertain even for a moment.
She loved him. She liked his blooming face, his gentleman-like mustache, the quaint jerk of his head, as he walked; she was fond of his company; she was sure she was in love with him: her confidant, her fellow country girl and playmate, who had recently married Meyer, the presser, had told her so.
But somehow she felt disappointed. She had imagined love to be a much sweeter thing. She had thought that a girl in love admired everything in the object of her affections, and was blind to all his faults. She had heard that love was something like a perpetual blissful fluttering of the heart. His smile sometimes appears to her fulsome. Ah, if he did not shut his eyes as he does when smiling! That he is so slow to spend money is rather one of the things she likes in him. If he ever marries her she will be sure to get every cent of his wages.
But then when they are together at a ball he never goes up to the bar to treat her to a glass of soda, as the other fellows do to their girls, and all he offers her is an apple or a pear, which he generally stops to buy on the street on their way to the dancing hall. Is she in love at all? Maybe she is mistaken? But no! She must have herself to blame. It is not in vain that her mother calls her a whimpering, nagging thing, who gives no peace to herself nor to anybody around her.
But why does he not come out with his declaration? Is it because he is too stingy to wish to support a wife? Has he been making a fool of her? What does he take her for, then? In fairness to Heyman, it must be stated that on the point of his intentions, at least, her judgment of him was without foundation, and her misgivings gratuitous. Pecuniary considerations had nothing to do with his slowness in proposing to her. And if she could have watched him and penetrated his mind at the moments when he examined his bankbook--which he did quite often--she would have ascertained that little images of herself kept hovering before his eyes between the figures of its credit columns, and that the sum total conjured up to him a picture of prospective felicity with her for a central figure.
Poor thing; she did not know that when he lingeringly fondled her hand, on taking his leave in the hallway, the proposal lay on the tip of his tongue, and that lacking the strength to relieve himself of its burden he every time left her, consoling himself that the moment was inopportune, and that "tomorrow he would surely settle it. She went on to picture the scene, but at this point her meditations were suddenly broken by something clutching and pulling at her hair. He had just got up from his after-dinner nap, and, for want of any other occupation, he passed his dirty little hand into her raven locks.
Heyman skulked away to his seat, and, burying his head in his work, he proceeded to drown, in the whir-r, whir-r of his machine, the screams of the boy, who would have struck a much higher key had his mamma happened on the spot. Deaf-mutes usually have such mouths. And his beard? It must have got there by mistake. Lipman, heavily loaded with parcels and panting for breath, came waddling in with an elderly couple in tow.
And her mouth? Why, it makes me think she does nothing but sneeze. Leizer, look at the guests I have brought you! This is our factory," she went on, with a smile of mixed welcome and triumph, after the demonstrative greetings were over. Lipman, coming upon them on Hester Street, lost no time in inviting them to her house, in order to overwhelm them with her American achievements.
Lipman said, beckoning to her country people, and before they were given an opportunity to avail themselves of the chairs which she had offered them, they were towed into the front room. When the procession returned, Leizer, in obedience to an order from his wife, took Reb Avrom in charge and proceeded to initiate him into the secrets of the "American style of tailoring. Fetch two bottles of soda from the grocery. It was not unusual for Beile to go on an errand for the wife of her employer, though she always did it unwillingly, and merely for fear of losing her place; but then Zlate generally exacted these services as a favor.
In the present instance, however, Beile felt mortally offended by her commanding tone, and the idea of being paraded before the strangers as a domestic cut her to the quick, as a stream of color rushing into her face indicated. His heart shrank with the awkwardness of his situation, and he nervously grated his teeth and shut his eyes, awaiting still more painful developments.
His veins tingled with pity for his sweetheart and with deadly hatred for David. What could he do? What business has David to interfere? I say go and bring some soda, quick! Lipman screamed, fearing lest she was going too far. Beile did not. It is not worth the trouble," Avrom chimed in. But this only served to lash Zlate into a greater fury, and unmindful of consequences, she strode up to the cause of her predicament, and tearing the coat out of her hands, she squeaked out: "Either fetch the soda, or leave my shop at once!
Leizer, who was of a quiet, peaceful disposition, and very much under the thumb of his wife, stood nervously smiling and toying with his beard. Come along. But did she tell you that it had been bought on the installment plan, and that the custom peddler threatened to take it away unless she paid more regularly?
Lipman gasped, her face distorted with rage and desperation. The command was unnecessary, however, for by this time David was buttoning up his overcoat, and had his hat on.
Involuntarily following his example, Beile also dressed to go.
Leizer Lipman. In this narrative. Harmonizing to the narrative. One twenty-four hours. During the visit. As explained in the introductory paragraphs.
Abrahaj Heyman heard exclamations which dissipated sweattshop every doubt as to the identity of the chief actors in the ceremony which had just been completed within. During the visit, Mrs. It was the image of a pluckier fellow than Heyman—of one with whom there baraham more protection in store for a wife, who inspired her with more respect and confidence, and, what is more, who seemed on the point of proposing to her. I say go and bring some soda, quick!
A Sweatshop Romance