Tateh In Ragtime

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The 1890’s were the beginning of a period of change known as the Progressive Era. It was a time of patriotism, poverty, monopolies, and labor unions. Middle to upper class children were serenated to sleep with stories of rags to riches, while those in rags rarely saw riches come their way. “Most of the immigrants came from Italy and Eastern Europe” (14), and lived in decrepit neighborhoods, often hated by the residents of the city. Tateh, a character in the novel Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow, was a poor immigrant who joined the labor union cause, believing it would improve his life, only to become a victim of a police raid, but rising to fortune like a true “Rags to Riches” hero. His socialist beliefs influenced his decision to move away from the…show more content…
The strike he was specifically involved in was the Lawrence Textile Worker’s Strike. After fleeing New York City, he moved to Lawrence, Massachusetts, where he, “…for the first time since coming to America, he thought it might be possible to live here” (95). He enjoyed his life, although he was not making much more money than before. He joined the strike when the American Woolen Company cut wages of underpaid workers, including him. The strike spread throughout the city, but, “…the message went out to the workers: no violence” (121). So Tateh never became violent. The strike went on for weeks, and Tateh used his artistic talents as a sign designer for them. What made the strike infamous was the excessive use of force by police. Strike organizers and sympathizers organized a children evacuation and protection service as the strikes began to turn violent. “The mill owners…realized…the children’s crusade was the most damaging” (124). The day Tateh was to send his daughter away to safety, there was a police raid at the train station, and police declared that children were not allowed to leave. The train station itself “[was] in hysterics” which led to battered parents and scared children (127). In an attempt to move his daughter to safety, she was set into a train car, but the train began leaving the station before he could retrieve her. He ran after the train and barely managed to hang on long enough to the exterior of the train before being pulled in by other passengers. Tateh’s actions would change his financial standings and his future. In short, Tateh humanized the Lawrence Labor Strikes by giving readers an insight as to why they occurred and what it was like to be apart of

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