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Last Updated on August 7, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 515

"Is it not possible to breathe God’s air without fear dominating the pall of unemployment? And the terror of production for Boss, Boss, and Job? To rebel is to lose all of the very little. To be obedient is to choke. O dear Lord, guide my path."

Early in the...

(The entire section contains 515 words.)

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"Is it not possible to breathe God’s air without fear dominating the pall of unemployment? And the terror of production for Boss, Boss, and Job? To rebel is to lose all of the very little. To be obedient is to choke. O dear Lord, guide my path."

Early in the novel, on the eve of his death as the Christ in concrete, Geremio prays this prayer. It summarizes the dilemma faced by Geremio and other working-class immigrants like him. In this 1920s world, they are exploited and forced to work in dangerous situations for low pay without adequate safety protection. Nobody really cares if they live or die. Geremio "chokes" on being obedient to this system, which he knows is dangerous and unfair. He wants to speak out. Yet he recognizes that if he does so, he will "lose all of the very little." He will be fired and blacklisted. At least now he has a small income with which to support his family. Nevertheless, the spirit of rebellion rises in him. Not knowing what to do, he appeals to God for help. We note, too, that in this quote, as throughout the novel, the job is spoken of as "Job," as if it is a god the men must worship and sacrifice to.


"The scaffolds rose a floor a day. With each floor the height and majesty of skyscraper fascinated him, but he never told mother Annunziata about the danger of falling or being pushed from a swinging scaffold forty or fifty floors above the street. Or of a derrick cable snapping and sending a girder crashing the scaffold to earth. It seemed so daring to lay brick at the edge of a wall that ran down hundreds and hundreds of feet to a toy world below, a wall that leaned out and seemed about to fall away.

This was steel Job where danger was ever present with falling planks and beams and bolts and white-hot molten steel from acetylene torch and breaking cable and unexpected drops of hoist—great dangerous Job who thrilled Paul."

At this point in the novel, Paul still believes in God, and he says he is not afraid although he has just seen a worker go by with his hand bloody and his fingers torn off. Paul still finds the work and the danger it presents exciting, not yet realizing how ruthless and exacting of a god Job is. The passage shows Pietro di Donato's skill at description.

"He is in a huge choir loft with scaffolding about the walls. In niches are saints. They wear overalls and look like paesanos he dimly recalls. They step down and carry hods and push wheelbarrows. But what saints are they?"

In this passage, Paul has moved beyond worshipping God or worshipping Job. He envisions the work site as a cathedral. The ordinary workers, going about their business, are the saints. Paul has come to understand that he needs to place his faith in solidarity with his fellow workingmen. In this passage, the men achieve a mythic quality, larger than life.

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