Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 408
Published in 1939, the same year as John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, Christ in Concrete critiques capitalism. Along with Steinbeck's novel, it became one of the year's most heralded reads. After a decade of depression, people were continuing to question an economic system that still did not seem to be delivering the American Dream to many of its citizens.
Christ in Concrete offers graphic descriptions of the dangers New York's construction workers faced as they built the skyscrapers and other structures that defined the city's skyline. Geremio's Good Friday death, for example, is described in graphic detail. A building collapses on him. He looks like Christ on the cross as he is pierced with his arms outstretched by metal reinforcement rods. He is buried alive in wet cement. We learn that:
the floor vomited upward. Geremio clutched at the air and shrieked agonizingly.
Likewise, the terrible injury Paul sees in a fellow worker is described unflinchingly:
A Swedish carpenter was coming down slowly and holding up his right hand. It looked like a ghastly dripping rose. The four fingers had been shorn off to the palm and the mangled remains ran red faucets. He walked silently with white face down the stairs. Later, Nicky told Paul that the carpenter was greasing the wheel at the top of the hoist when the cable suddenly ran and caught his hand against the wheel, rubbing off his fingers.
In its refusal to gloss over the grisly aspects of construction site deaths and injuries, the novel helps us experience the suffering of the workers. However, di Dinato also shows the joys the workers experience, even as they live crowded in substandard tenement apartments in New York's Lower East Side. Life is not unremittingly bleak. The workers enjoy food and family. We celebrate, for instance, men returning home from work:
the sight of many men stepping to wife and little ones, the rising-falling feet of husband-fathers on stairway, the opening and shutting of home doors . . . the wonderful fantasy of eventide, of plates and bread and soup and spoons’ clatter. (54)
The immigrants at times eat well:
chicken soup . . . rich with eggs, fennel, artichoke roots, grated parmesan and noodles that melted . . . broiled fat eels garnished with garlic and parsley . . . (184)
These descriptions reinforce the theme that God is not found in the Church, or in a seance, or in the god of "Job" on the worksite, but in the lives and souls of the workers themselves.
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 351
Pietro di Donato’s unique handling of language, although more evident in the longer work, is nevertheless effectively developed in this short story. Critic Fred L. Gardaphe, in his introduction to the 1993 reprint of Christ in Concrete, notes that Di Donato’s unique achievement is his ability to express the characters’ thoughts and dialogue in both the immigrant’s broken English and the speech rhythms of Italian translated into English.
In his view, Di Donato masterfully combines the...
(The entire section contains 759 words.)
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