The Flivver King
One day while searching for work Abner ran into a meeting calling for “Ford Workers to Assemble”. Here, Abner came to some significant conclusions about his time at the Ford Motor Company. A Labor union was formed to stand up to the mistreatments of workers. Sinclair describes Abner’s experience listening to the speeches at the meeting by writing, “It was the story Abner knew by heart: the speed-up and the tyranny of the bosses, the senseess petty regulations, the irregularity of employment, the lack of security and the devencies of life.
Yes, here was a fellow who knew what he was talking about, and when the crowd shouted, Abner’s heart warmed. ”6 This instance convinced Abner to partake in a protest against Henry Ford and his mistreatment of his workers. “Surely, he had the right to ask for a job. Surely If Mr. Ford knew about it, he would grant that right! ”7 The protest ended up being very traumatic and more violent than Abner had expected. He couldn’t understand why people were being tear gassed and even shot when all they wanted was to ask for a job.
It was unmistakable at this point that the optimistic man at the beginning of the book who worked on him inventions in his shed was no longer in existence. The person who took his place was selfish, heavily guarded and even dared to send machine guns to be fired upon people standing up for themselves. The Great Depression had made a damaging impact on everyone in America and this shows how far people were willing to go to try to fight it. Another example of this disparity was the final scene of the book where Tom and Dell Shutt experience shocking violence after a labor union meeting they participated in.
During this time, standing up for the working class and defying big business leaders was dangerous. These same sorts of issues were faced in the mid and late 1800’s and one would think by this time the country would have progressed but on the contrary, it is just as bad. It is important to dissect Sinclair’s novel to understand the relationship between big businesses and their labor forces during the early 20th century. Most people today would think of Henry Ford as a character or wealth and progression. Many people don’t realize the hardships that his workers encountered as Ford began to care less about the worker and more about the product.
Harsh times in the country’s economy led to many people losing their jobs and coming together to dispute the current way of the work world. Henry Ford was once a man who worked on his dreams in an average neighborhood where he spent a lot of time talking and influencing the children. He later became a man who was willing to use mass violence to protect his production status. Abner Shutt and his family’s experiences with the Ford Motor Company are perfect examples of the sufferings of the average worker during the early 20th century.