The Great Depression and the Life of Italian-Immigrant Workers

Topics: Italian American, Great Depression, Family Pages: 11 (2790 words) Published: April 30, 2011
The Great Depression and the Life of Italian-Immigrant Workers

Commentary: In order to develop ideas for this paper, I first analyzed the time of the Depression and what Italian Immigrants lives were like typically living in America. Using this background knowledge, I was able to analyze the lifestyles of the working class in each of the stories. Even though the background story of each of the family’s lives differed, they all had a common basis in that they were Italian Immigrant families working a hard lifestyle in order to support the family during economic hardship. I revised this paper by looking to see if my ideas were clearly expressed. I ran into an obstacle of trying to figure out which ideas to express, since the novels are characterized with many examples. In order to overcome this, I decided that I wanted to stick with the main points of the novel to my ideas across. This is where I think my strength came in. However, I think my weakness lies in organization of my ideas within each story.

The influx of Southern Europeans to the United States of America prior to the Great Depression provided labor for rapidly expanding industries. When the capitalistic American economy collapsed in 1929, many of these laborers became jobless, living in cities like New York. Italians living in New York City during the Great Depression were a mass of poor people culturally linked, living through one of the toughest periods in American History. Through the eyes of a first generation Italian-American living in Brooklyn during this time, government, holiday celebration, and everyday life helped Italians withstand the hardship of The Great Depression. The large wave of Italian immigrants between 1880 and 1920 was largely due to the hard economic times Italy was experiencing. Industrialization had taken over much of the world, and Italy’s problems directly stemmed from their failure to efficiently industrialize. Most often the Italian-Immigrant families lived in houses called tenements. Jacob Riis, police reporter for the New York Tribune and an immigrant himself, described the horrors of these tenements in his book How The Other Half Lives. In How The Other Half Lives, Riis reports, "one room 12x12 with five families living in it, comprising twenty persons of both sexes and all ages, with only two beds, without partitions, screen, chair or table." This is an example of the worst type of living conditions. Even through the Great Depression, Italian American immigrants that settled in New York lived their lives as happily as possible. Although before the depression many of these immigrants were impoverished, most families did not live as though they were poor. Family plays an important role in the lives of Italian-American immigrants, specifically in that they stay together and support one another. Especially during hard times of the Great Depression, family was important in dealing with the stresses and challenges of their working-class lifestyles. Different Italian-American immigrant families adapted in different ways, but family plays a central role for each. This paper will discuss many literary works such as Christ in Concrete, The Fortunate Pilgrim, and works in the anthology From the Margins which make an accurate depiction of the Italian-American working class lifestyles during different periods of the twentieth century and how they adapted to the stresses and challenges of their lifestyles (Class Notes).

First, the short literary work called Cakes, takes place in 1940. This means that it was basically during the time of the Great Depression, and even though it was really a little after the Depression, the Depression still lingered on. Thus, there was a need to work all the time. The story is set in the summer of Brooklyn and we have this characteristic figure of an Italian man named Giovanni, and he works in a bakery shop to support his family along with his eleven-year-old son Johnny. The story...
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