An American in the Making: The Life Story of an Immigrant

By M. E. Ravage; Steven G. Kellman | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIII
The Soul of the Ghetto

I did not for a long time perceive the drift of all this feverish intellectual activity. I was too busy reading and listening to care about the ultimate purpose of it all. Gordin was giving his brilliant talks on the Evolution of the Drama, and running a series of suggestive articles on the topic in Die Zukunft. A group of young writers had just begun the publication of Die Freie Stunde (The Idle Hour), which was devoted only to what was best in belles-lettres. The war between the radical and the reactionary press, always raging, was just now assuming a most violent character. The anarchist Freie Arbeiter Stimme was bringing out the journal of a Catholic priest who had attained to atheism, and publishing column upon column of letters in which the merits of religion and freethought were discussed by the public, a certain well-known agnostic taking up the defense of religion for argument’s sake. Within the progressive circle there were continual debates between socialists and anarchists, which sometimes rose to passionate fury, but always remained enlightening. My mind was eagerly absorbing all these new impressions and all these wonderful ideas. A new world was unfolding itself before me, with endless, magnificent vistas extending in all directions.

The “slack,” that bugbear of the factory hand, was losing its terror for me. A time arrived when I would start to the shop in the morning in hopes that I might find the power turned off and the boss explaining that work was “slow.” On such days I would keep my coat and collar right on and take myself off to the nearest library, despite the boss’s protests and assurance that he was expecting the bundles from the manufacturer to arrive any moment. There was so much for me to do. There were whole stacks of Norwegian dramatists, and Russian novelists, and Yiddish poets that I had as yet barely touched. In my room there was a collection of the Reclam editions of Zola and Maupassant, and an assortment of plays of all nations which had been suggested to me by Gordin’s lectures which I had not yet found time to touch at all. Besides, I was trying to become a writer myself. The Forward had

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An American in the Making: The Life Story of an Immigrant
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Chronology ix
  • Introduction xiii
  • A Note on the Text xxxiii
  • Contents 5
  • Introduction 7
  • Part One - The Alien at Home 11
  • Chapter I - The Prophet from America 13
  • Chapter II - The Gospel of New York 20
  • Chapter III - The Exodus 27
  • Chapter IV - To America on Foot 31
  • Chapter V - Farewell Forever 38
  • Part Two - The Alien Abroad 45
  • Chapter VI - First Impressions 47
  • Chapter VII - The Immigrant’s America 53
  • Chapter VIII - "How Do You like America?" 58
  • Chapter IX - Ventures and Adventures 66
  • Chapter X - Purifications 78
  • Chapter XI - The Ethics of the Bar 86
  • Part Three - The Education of an American 93
  • Chapter XII - Shirts and Philosophy 95
  • Chapter XIII - The Soul of the Ghetto 104
  • Chapter XIV - The Tragedy of Readjustment 110
  • Chapter XV - The Trials of Scholarship 118
  • Chapter XVI - Off to College 126
  • Part Four - America of the Americans 133
  • Chapter XVII - In the Mold 135
  • Chapter XVIII - The American as He Is 143
  • Chapter XIX - The Fruits of Solitude 151
  • Chapter XX - Harvey 159
  • Chapter XXI - The Romance of Readjustment 168
  • Part Five - Postscript- Twenty Years Later 175
  • Chapter XXII - Jeanne’s Sentimental Pilgrimage 177
  • Chapter XXIII - And My Own 189
  • About the Editor 213
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