Problems With Industrialization

Author: Heinrich Heine. A german writer who was notorious in the 1800’s due to many of his writings being banned in Germany. Most of his writings were very critical about Germany and was considered a radical individual. He was born of Jewish decent but converted early in his life to Christianity.

Context: Around the time of this writing, there was unrest for the German people, more specifically, the German workers who were facing unfair conditions and had a terrible standard of living and pay,(1844). This piece was written fresh off the Industrial Revolution.

Language: The tone set in the writing gives off a sense of disdain for how Germany treated their workers post industrial revolution.

Audience: The target audience for the writing is for the workers in Germany who are facing hardships by the German factory owners. Many of the people who are reading this are factory workers who want change and to improve their experience in the factory.

Intent: The intent of this writing is to provoke change in the conditions of the factories.

Message: People of Germany should be disappointed in how they have allowed their fellow man to be treated poorly while they slave to produce things they need. Heine emphasized in the poem regardless, there will be an inevitable change within Germany that will allow the workers to flourish.  In 1848 there was a revolution in Germany.

Problems with Industrialization

Author: Heinrich Heine was born in 1979 into a Jewish family in Rhineland. In 1825 he converted to Christianity. Many of his works were banned by German authorities because of their potentially revolutionary and radical views.
Context: Inspired by a protest against working conditions in 1844 Germany. With the onset of the Industrial Revolution around 1820, the revolution was fully underway and people were beginning to become more aware of the problems and abuses that they were experiencing.
Language: Heine seems to use a rebellious tone with the idea of unification. Along with that, it is a somewhat dark, ominous tone.
Audience: Within the poem, Heine is addressing Germany and the atrocities that are being committed due to the Industrial Revolution. This is for those workers that are being abused so that they know there are people out there willing to stand up.
Intent: The intent of this work is to create a change in Germany that would create better conditions for the workers.
Message: Within this poem, Heine is trying to let the people of Germany know that there are others that are also unhappy while also letting Germany know that change is imminent. This opinion was obviously correct with the March Revolution occurring in 1848.
Within the poem, Heine not only addresses the lying father nation (Germany), but also the king and God in other verses. Clearly, the people that are being abused, in this case the weavers, are not happy with any of these three.

Consequences of the Industrial Revolution through “Silesian Weavers”

“A curse on this lying father-nation/ Where thrive only shame and degradation”

With a great deal of good always comes a fair amount of bad. So when the Industrial Revolution took off, along with the economy and development of machinery, the poor treatment of workers came to light. This neglect for the welfare of laborers is brought to attention by Heinrich Heine, author of “Silesian Weavers”. In this poem, Heine uses strong negative diction to impassion his audience, in turn sparking the development of a constitution for Prussia. Particularly striking word choices include the repetition of the word “curse”, “gloom-enveloped eyes”, “funeral shroud”, “dank rot”, and “cheerless”, among others. Heine uses these negative words to illustrate the mistreatment of laborers during the time. He points a finger at the government, in particular the king himself (“A curse on the king…/Who was not moved even by our grief”), in order to draw attention to the main cause of this degradation of workers. The quote at the very beginning of this post highlights the sentiments of Heine and his supporters during this time of ill-treatment. This particular line suggests that the nation has been reduced to a country that can only host shame and degradation, and no longer has a place for honor and respect in its labor system.

This situation was not exclusive to Silesia, but was prevalent throughout Europe during the Industrial Revolution. The poor treatment of workers ignited a revolution within the Industrial Revolution, a revolution of workers seeking respect. It inspired workers to pursue better treatment, working conditions, and rights.

Although in America and many parts of Europe, people work in the presence of humane conditions, American and European corporations run countless enormous factories in third-world, developing countries in which the workers are exploited, similar to what occurred during the Industrial Revolution. In these establishments, workers are paid close to nothing for hours of grueling, tedious labor. We do this because it ensures greater profit for our corporations. Obviously it is unjust, but why do countries repeat mistakes that have been made in the past? Is it because we have the power to domineer over less fortunate nations? Do these workers have the capability to ignite a movement against exploiting corporations, such as what occurred in Prussia? Why aren’t we taking more action against this exploitation of foreigners working for our companies? Is it because we feel removed, distant, and unconnected to these people because they are working thousands of miles away? We certainly have the resources and power to end this exploitation, but no great measures are being taken to end it.

Consequences of Industrialization

In H. Heine’s “The Silesian Weavers” he writes “A curse on this lying father-nation where thrive only shame and degradation, where every flower’s plucked ere it’s bloom and worms thrive in the dank rot and gloom- we’re weaving, we’re weaving!”

This passage exemplifies the poor working class man’s view of the industrial revelation. I chose this passage because it is a curse to the father-nation that is taking advantage of the these workers. The passage shows the feelings of hopelessness and anger that these people had towards their nation. Heine speaks for the people when he writes about their “degradation” and how they see no good and if they manage to get something, anything from their labor, it is quickly stripped from them by those that oppress them. This keeps them in a hopeless state where they expect to be wronged, overworked, and spend their lives rotting in the dark of these workplaces. The workers were basically slaves working unconscionable hours with little time for breaks and meager pay. The industrial revolution was a big step towards solving economic problems and advancing in technology, vocation, transport, communications and mechanized goods. However, the industrial revolution also caused problems of exploitation of women labor as well as child labor. It also created an even bigger divide between the rich and the poor and divided the people into those who “had” and those who didn’t. The need for cheap workers was solved by using the young people and making them work in conditions so horrible, most of them grew up maimed and unhealthy to the point where their quality of life was severely reduced and many died. With no rights to vote, or strike against this injustice, Heine provides these laborers with a voice, and expresses the feeling of these oppressed people who have been denied an opinion or choice for their quality of life.

Silesian Weavers

Heinrich Heine’s poem, “Silesian Weavers” was inspired by a protest over the working conditions of weaving laborers in Silesian, Prussia. The poem confronts the issue of workers’ rights and their continuous exploitation and oppression by the rich and, along with worker riots, served as a key asset for the revolution that subsequently forced the King of Prussia to allow his people a constitution.

Heine’s poem, which pays sympathy to the working class, was intended to inspire and even arouse anger amongst his lower-class compatriots. He tacitly implies that a day of retribution is coming and that the rich will soon be forced to atone for their wrongdoings. While it was not uncommon for philosophers, writers, and artists to condemn wealthy individuals and their monarchy for their treatment of those less fortunate, Heine’s also denounces the less tangible set of institutions of religion and nationalism.

“One curse upon the God to whom we prayed […]”

“A curse upon the king, the rich man’s king[…]”

“A curse upon the false fatherland[…]”

Heine begins each stanza by damning an institution in which people were once comforted by. He curses to God, to whom the people once prayed, implying that the Germans clung to their faith even in the most despondent of times and foolishly hoped for savior, receiving nothing in return.

In his next stanza, Heine asserts that the people are not the ones being represented by the king and it is only the rich who benefit from the monarchy’s existence. Here, he insinuates that it is not the monarchy that will assist in terminating the workers’ struggle, but rather it will be the body that sucks them dry.

Heine criticizes the country of Germany, addressing it as a “false fatherhood” and rather than patriotism and nationalism thriving, despair and shame are the only things to prosper.

Unlike Herder and de Lisle, along with other political writers of the time who advocated that things such as religion and nationalism were essential, Heine actually blames these institutional practices for the deterioration of the working class.

“We’re weaving, we’re weaving!”

In H. Heine’s poem “The Silesian Weavers” he writes “Their gloom-enveloped eyes are tearless, They sit at the spinning wheel, snarling cheerless: “Germany, we weave your funeral shroud, A threefold curse be within it endowed-We’re weaving, we’re weaving!”  This is of course in reference to the awful conditions for factory workers during the Industrial Revolution.  This poem pertains to the workers in Silesia, a Prussian Province.

This stanza in the poem is more impactful when taking into account the other two readings.  Even though Heine’s poem is about Silesia, it could be about any large factory.  This is not an overreaction to one factory with poor conditions.  Every factory had these issues.  Every worker sat “at the spinning wheel, snarling cheerless”.  The workers are clearly angry with the factory, angry with the new life.  This is not just obvious because the poem was inspired by an 1844 protest but the language.  When writing “A threefold curse be within it endowed” Heine was showing this anger.  The workers are angry about the money and hours because of these conditions.  It is much easier to like your job when the conditions are acceptable, but 19th century factories were certainly not acceptable.  The last line of the first stanza is also very telling.  By using the exclamation point, Heine is implying that “We’re weaving, we’re weaving!” is something the workers had to say often, in order to show the bosses they we’re still working.  However if they had to show they we’re working then how much effort were the putting into the work?