Themes

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Last Updated September 6, 2023.

The Desperation to Survive in Dire Situations

One of the themes that emerges quickly is the desperation to survive in nearly impossible circumstances. In act 1, it becomes evident how dire the situation has become for the weavers. They beg for money to feed their children. Their work is criticized for every flaw, and their pay is drastically lowered as punishment. When they claim that the materials they have been provided are not of the quality needed to produce the cloth that can meet the expectations of the inspector, Pfeifer, they are dismissed as lazy. Men and women beg for advances on their wages in order to feed their children, and they are all casually dismissed as well. A young child enters the scene and passes out, barely muttering "I'm h..hungry" when he regains consciousness. Dreissinger, the manager, calls the parents "a disgrace" for not taking better care of their child. In act 2, little Fritz is starving and his mother is seen collecting potato peelings to take to the nearby farmer in hopes of obtaining a bit of skim milk for him. Mother Baumbert has developed arthritis and has possibly had a stroke, needing to be taken care of by her daughters yet constantly distressed that she cannot help weave for her family, who are in dire need of money and food. Their stove is nearly ruined, but since they have not been able to pay rent for the last six months, they dare not call the landlord in fear of his evicting them completely. Baumert is forced to kill the family dog and bring it home as a bit of meat for his family. At every turn, the weavers represent the poor in society who are barely surviving and are willing to do almost anything in order to better their circumstances.

Apathy of the Wealthy

The conflict is driven by those with wealth who dismiss the problems of the poor so casually. Dreissiger doesn't even consider the poor capable of retaliating until it is too late. He treats the poor with disdain and thinks that his problems of business are just as hard as the struggles of the poor to survive. He is arrogant and teaches the poor that they should be thankful for what they get and not expect more. Instead of really listening to the pleas of those in his employment, he would rather see them arrested for their annoyances. Even when the riot comes to his house, Dreissiger believes that it is beyond the realm of possibility that the poor could harm him, telling the police superintendent:

Their insolence was beyond all bounds—quite unbearable. I have visitors in my house, and these blackguards dare to . . . They insult my wife whenever she shows herself . . . My visitors run the risk of being jostled and cuffed. It is possible that in a well-ordered community incessant public insult offered to unoffending people like myself and my family should pass unpunished?

Because of his wealth, Dreissiger neither sees nor cares about the suffering all around him and sees himself as "unoffending" in his treatment of his fellow citizens. He is completely blind to his own fault in the societal unrest.

Oppression Leads to Revolution

When people feel as though they have nothing left to lose, they can resort to unexpected actions. The poor are not even taken as a serious threat by the wealthy, yet they come together in an uprising to destroy the homes of Dreissiger and others who have oppressed them. They take by force what they need to survive. One young...

(This entire section contains 745 words.)

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weaver declares, "No one had mercy on us—neither God nor man. Now we're standin' up for our rights ourselves." In the closing act, Becker notes, "What they'll not give us willingly we're going to take by force." As the wealthy have stripped humanity away from the poor little by little, they are left with only a desire to survive by any means possible. The poor feel forced to seek revenge on those who have placed them in such hardship and lead their revolution from house to house, attacking and pillaging those who have previously not listened to their pleas for help. Old Hilse, a weaver who tries to find a middle ground between the uprising of the poor and the assumed rights of the wealthy, is mortally wounded in the final scene and symbolically dies on top of his loom, indicating that in this uprising, there is no middle ground.

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