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Last Updated September 6, 2023.

Pfeifer: [The weaver places his web on the scales.] If only you understood your business a little better! Full of lumps again . . . . I hardly need to look at the cloth to see them. Call yourself a weaver, and "draw as long as a bow" as you've done there!

As weaver after weaver approaches Pfeifer for inspection, they are met with insults and dismissal. Their work is never of quality and according to Pfeifer, they do not even understand the nature of the work. He views them as incapable in their skills and offers them insulting payment for their work. He even says here that he doesn't even need to look at the cloth to know that the workmanship is poor, indicating the hopelessness of the situation. The weavers are thus put into a position of begging for payment for their work, and he is cruel in word and action in settling this with them. He takes his direction from Dreissinger, the manager, who is equally cruel.

Heiber: [Speaking with difficulty.] I've a girl lying sick at home too, an' she needs a bottle of medicine.

Old Baumert: What's wrong with her?

Heiber: Well, you see, she's always been a sickly bit of a thing. I don't know . . . I needn't mind tellin' you—she brought her trouble with her. It's in her blood, and it breaks out here, there, and everywhere.

Old Baumert: It's always the way. Let folks be poor, and one trouble comes to them on top of another. There's no help for it and there's no end to it.

Heiber: What are you carryin' in that cloth, Father Baumert?

Old Baumert: We haven't so much as a bite in the house, and so I've had the little dog killed. There's not much on him, for the poor beast was half starved. A nice little dog he was!

The conditions the poor are forced to endure are heartbreaking and shocking. As they line up for payment, they begin exchanging stories of their personal difficulties. These weavers have children who are starving with not a single bite of food in their homes to ease the pangs of hunger. They need medicine, which they can't afford. And in perhaps the most shocking revelation, Baumert is forced to slaughter the family dog whom he loved in order to have a bite of food for his family. This signifies the will of these weavers to survive; they are capable of doing anything needed to help their families, no matter the cost.

Mrs. Heinrich: [No longer able to control herself, screams, still crying.] My children's starvin'. [Sobs and moans.] I'm at my wits' ends. Let me work till I fall down—I'm more dead than alive—it's all no use. Am I able to fill nine hungry mouths? We got a bit o' bread last night, but it wasn't enough even for the two smallest ones. Who was I to give it to, eh? They all cried: Me, me, mother! give it to me! . . . An' if it's like this while I'm still on my feet, what'll it be like when I've to take to bed? Our few taters was washed away. We haven't a thing to put in our mouths.

This illustrates the impossible choices the poor are forced to make. This mother is frantically reaching out to the Baumerts for a bit of help, and she is told they have nothing to offer her. She feels that she can't go home again with nothing to offer her children as sustenance. She cannot face trying to determine...

(This entire section contains 1235 words.)

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which child should get food while the others are told they cannot eat. She has many children depending on her and nothing to offer them. Hopeless, she collapses into her grief.

Jaeger: There's nothing I'd like better than to give the manufacturers round here a bit of a fright—dogs that they are! I'm an easy-going fellow, but let me once get worked up into a real rage, and I'll take Dreissiger in the one hand and Dittrich in the other, and knock their heads together till the sparks fly out of their eyes.—If we could only manage to join together, we'd soon give the manufacturers a proper lesson . . . As soon as they see that there's some pluck in us, they'll cave in. I know the rascals; they're a pack of cowardly hounds.

This is the beginning of the uprising. Feeling they have no other recourse, the weavers decide to take matters into their own hands. They cannot take the insults from Dreissiger any longer and seek personal revenge for the pain he has inflicted and all he has denied them. They have been driven to anger and violence which Dreissiger doesn't think them to be capable of. And Jaeger predicts the response well; Dreissiger does prove to be a coward and flees, just as predicted.

Weigand: If you'll excuse me for saying so, sir, there's a deal of foolishness among the poorer working people hereabouts . . . They run themselves into debt over head and ears; they're owing money to the pastor, to the sexton, and to all concerned. Then there's the victuals an' the drink, an' such like. No, sir, I'm far from speaking against dutifulness to parents . . .

Although these comments are made in observance of a funeral procession, it captures the overall feelings the upper classes hold for the poor. They are convinced that the poor struggle because of their own bad decisions and their inability to make sound financial decisions. It conveys both the arrogance of the wealthy in trying to diminish the problems of the poor and the complete disconnect from their very real struggles. Clearly the poor are not gorging themselves on "victuals an' the drink" when they are literally starving to death for lack of resources. Weigand attempts to cover his prejudices by noting that he couldn't dare speak against the duties of parents, which is exactly what he does here. The real duty of these poor parents is to keep their children alive and to attempt to honor them when they can't. Weigand cannot comprehend this.

Dreissiger: It really is too comical: first came the dispute at dinner with Weinhold—five minutes after that he takes leave—off to the other end of the world; then this affair crops up—and now we'll proceed with our whist.

Dreissiger doesn't take the unsettled weavers seriously. He believes that they are powerless to rise against the wealthy and bemoans the "so-called humanitarians" for putting aspirations in their heads. He expects them to settle down and accept whatever meager offerings they are giving, plodding along in meager existence from one day to the next. He finds their complaints annoying but considers them no more a threat than a pesky fly. He seriously underestimates both their capabilities and their anger.

Old Baumert: I say Becker's right: even if it ends in chains an' ropes—we'll be better off in prison than at home. You're cared for there, an' you don't need to starve.

This comment reflects a desperation in the poor that is still felt in society today. These poor weavers feel that there is so little left for them in "freedom" that it is worthwhile to commit crimes and be imprisoned. They are willing to trade freedom for food. This is a dangerous tipping point in any society and reflects the hopelessness and desperation of those in poverty.




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