Thomas Bell should be commended in the ability to entice readers in the roller coaster ride of a Hungarian families struggle to find success in The United States. Out of This Furnace is a narrative of a Hungarian family over a three generation span. The book goes into great depth explaining the struggles of the family’s fortune and the evolution of their values. Bell does a terrific job incorporating historical event into the plot of the novel, giving readers a visual conception of the time period. This book captivated the audience giving them an appreciation for the struggles immigrant families and all working class families during the second industrial revolution.
To illustrate the progression of time, Bell writes the novel as a third person narrative that changes main character on four different occasions. All main characters are part of the same family, giving interpretations of the struggles they face over three different generations. The transition of main characters was always a result of a death. Whether that be in part one when the main character, George Kracha‘s wife dies after a long spin of illness, which can be gathered was a result of heart ache. Or when the actual main character dies like Mike Dobrejcak in a work related accident at the mill, and Mary Dobrejcak-Kracha after being hospitalized from consumption and later dyeing from the flu. Bell portrays a quite grim depiction of the fatality rate during the second industrial revolution. There is an emphasis on the struggles the working class had to go through just in order to stay alive.
The primary focus of the novel was to illuminate the evolution of struggles each generation was faced with as an immigrant and as a member of the working class. The main objective for George Kracha was to be more successful in America than what he would have achieved in Hungry. George was willing to reach success at any cost, with little to no consideration of his family. George works so hard for so long he becomes selfish and self-serving to only his needs and desires. Which eventually takes a toll on his wife and she eventually dies from correlated issues. The other family members learn from the down falls George went through. The importance of success was still strong in the generation to come but there was in emphasis on other factors of life. Skipping along two generations, Dobie Dobrejcak-Kracha was involved heavily in the S.W.O.C. and was fighting for the working classes rights in the labor force. That being said both characters had objectives outside the family but Dobie’s were not as directly self-serving. The progression in time also shows the evolution of the families beliefs and values.
As a history student, what I gain the most was the connection of the historical event to actual experiences from the characters. Bell was able to draw a grim picture of the Carnegie empire and the merciless way they made profits. Mill workings and their families lived with constant fear of reduction of hours, pay cuts and often layoffs. The struggle was the ground work for the union in the working class. Dobie’s involvement in the S.W.O.C. gave the reader a firsthand experience of what the working class was fighting for and the backlash they had to endure to do so. Bell should be applauded for his ability to bridge the gap between history and fiction in a respectable manner.
Out of The Furnace gave readers a vivid firsthand experience of the struggles immigrant and working class families had to endure during the second industrial revolution. Bell’s unique transition from main character to main character gave emphasis on the fatality rate during the time period. The transition of characters was also a clever way to disguise the progression of time. The objective of each main character was all in the same direction but they all learned something from the preceding character. So each narrative had a distinct growth in values and morals. This was most visible in Dobie’s involvement in the union; which was a great connection from fiction to actual events that Bell captured in his writing. Bell was very successful in his venture to give the second industrial revolution a face that people were able to relate to and understand.