The Comparative Analysis: Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times, John Sayles' Matewan, Sally Field's Norma Rae

Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times [1936]

The main hero in Charlie Chaplin's brilliant performance, like most other people in the United States during the Great Depression, faced with the problem of getting a good job. He is working on the conveyor factory where his primary responsibility is to tighten the screws on the details. The film demonstrates the beginning of the 20th century in terms of industrial development. The production in the Unites States is provided by the use of a conveyor system. The mechanization of the production sector leads to the fact that people also become a part of a big mechanism as they perform a role of a cog in it. Thus, the dehumanization of society in which the role of an individual as an employee is to implement repetitive actions is depicted. The protagonist of the film as a cog of the large machinery is required to perform a certain task. Though it is unpretentiousness, it has a destructive role for the mental and physical state of the main hero. In his example, the viewer can watch the particular conditions of workers in the late 20 's of the last century.

People are working in very hard conditions. For this reason, they no longer feel themselves as people as they work during many hours with little or no rest. All the attempts of the owner of the plant are reduced to turn the employees into robots, which are alien to human needs and demands. He constantly worsens the conditions of their work, demanding to increase the speed of the work and banning the minutes of rest when needed. The owner is a representative of the top management, which attempts to exploit employees maximally, completely ignoring the fact that they are first human beings and, therefore, have a right to decent working conditions. The main character being unable to stand the enormous physical and mental strain, leaves the plant in search of a better job. Unable to resist the tyranny of the business owners in his town, he and his girlfriend, a poor girl, leave it in search of a better life in another city. This moment in the film demonstrates the impotence of an individual in front of arbitrariness entrepreneurs.

John Sayles' Matewan [1987]

The story unfolds in 1920 in an American town called Matewan. Like Modern Times, Matewan also describes the unbearable working conditions for ordinary people. In this case, the point is about miners. They risk their lives every day, but receive pittance for their work. The company's management does not care about its employees by exposing their lives to the daily risk. Food, clothing, electricity, and housing belong to the Company. However, the owners of the mines want more. They reduce the salary, increase the prices in the shops, and squeeze out the last drop of the workers. The people's patience is exhausted. The workers form a union that will protect their rights and freedom. The work is stopped. The owners do not want to give up easy as they hire armed agents. The unsuccessful attempts of the miners to seek justice through their union result in an armed conflict between them and the management of the company. The outcome of the conflict is a large number of casualties on both sides. The film shows the struggle of the workers for their rights in terms of the development of unions.

The film is of particular interest in view of the fact that the viewer can observe the features of the religious and cultural life of the Americans in the early 20th century. Matewan shows the way of life of the pious Americans who constantly attend church services. Religion is an important part of their lives, which in many ways can determine the course of their thoughts. It is inextricably linked with the political and social situation in the city. For this reason, it serves as a means for some people of policy suggestions as well as social advocacy. However, the religiosity of the Americans in some way gets along with their racial prejudice and nationalism. One might observe in the film the rejection of the Americans against African Americans, as well as representatives of national minorities.

However, the main sense of the film is the idea that the struggle for decent working conditions must be carried out only by joint efforts. Solidarity, commitment to the ideals of justice, and the exclusive use of peaceful means to achieve their goals are the main accents in the film. The film focuses on the need for creating trade unions, which are to solve social and economic problems of the workers with the use of lawful and peaceful means.

Sally Field's Norma Rae [1979]

Norma Rae works in a textile factory from the morning till late at night. The working conditions are unbearable, and the salary is a pittance. All her relatives, including her parents, as well as her friends and neighbors live such a life. Absolutely nothing has changed for years. However, Norma Rae's familiarity with the trade union activist Ruben Warshawski abruptly changes her life standards. Together with her friends, she begins a desperate struggle for their rights against the owners' arbitrary. This film is primarily is a story of one woman's struggle in the face of the main heroine Norma Rae. If in the two previous films, especially in the second one, one might observe men's fight for decent working conditions, Norma Rae is primarily a hymn dedicated to women's fortitude, self-belief, and optimism. The main character started working at the age of 17 years. A short time later, she became a mother. She had to go through many life trials and difficulties. Norma Rae is a strong woman who thank to Reuben Warshowsky finds her calling in life as a successful trade union activist.

It must be added that religious and cultural features of the Americans at that time have an important role. In the example of Norma Rey, the viewer can learn about the existence of different patterns about various nations that are the characteristic of the Americans. In particular, Norma Rae, who first sees a Jew in the face of Reuben Warshowsky, admits that she has always been thinking that they have horns on their heads. In addition, the film is replete with the scenes of racism. The Americans not only refuse to join a union with the African Americans. Between them, street fights also take place. Nevertheless, the main heroine is also an example of the struggle against racial discrimination and racism because a lot of her friends are black. Norma Rae actively protects the idea of racial equality and justice. Her social activity is based on the belief that only joint efforts can lead to success on the way to obtaining decent work. Thus, the film reflects not only the features of the workers' labor in private companies, but also the specifics of the social situation in the United States three decades ago, when issues of racial discrimination were important to the community.

The film gives one an opportunity to get to know the system of control in the factories in the U.S. In particular, the factories had several departments and divisions, each of which performed a specific task. Each of the workshops was subject to one supervisor. In turn, the heads of departments were subject to the host of the plant. This control system is different from the one that can be seen in Modern Times, since in the latter it is a manufacturing department, in which all the employees work. This department is subject to the owner who runs it with the assistance of his one assistant.

To sum up, each of the three films gives a detailed description of the difficult working conditions in the United States which were several decades ago. Thanks to these films, a viewer can dip into the events, which took place many years ago and feel him/herself their party. A hard schedule of work, low wages, unsafe working conditions, contempt and haughty attitude on the part of business owners, and, finally, the desire of workers to fix a bad situation - all these aspects are present in these three films. Each of these films gives a viewer a chance to understand what it means to be a part of a big mechanism that renders an individual no more than a cog. A terrible dehumanization of society, which result is the arbitrariness of enterprise owners, is described in these films in detail. In addition, all the three films do not disregard the peculiarities of political, religious, cultural, and social lives of the Americans in the 20th century. A viewer will inevitably come to the conclusion that the development of industry and the scientific potential became the cause of the existence of the kind of society that can be called mechanical. The value of human life and personality is put under doubt in such a society. Racial prejudice and ethnic hostility, which complicate the struggle of workers for their rights, have also a main role.

In each of the films one might observe the features of the company's management in order to take advantage of the workers. In particular, in Modern Times the owner of the factory strongly prohibits rest breaks and reduces the time for lunch. People cannot make any attempt to protest because they fear that they will be dismissed. One should not forget that we are talking about the years of the Great Depression, when it is very difficult find a job. In contrast with Modern Times, In Matewan the employees are provided with the company housing. However, they all know that if they stop working on the company on its conditions they will be evicted. In addition, they have to buy the necessities of life only in the stores, which belong to the company. Finally, like in Modern Times, in Norma Rae people are not allowed to take breaks, even if they are tired. As we know, this ban has caused the death of the main heroine's father. In addition, the pressure on staff is a threat of dismissal and even physical violence against them.

Another difference between these films is in the method of solving the problems associated with poor working conditions. The hero of Charlie Chaplin is not trying to fight against tyranny. Together with his girlfriend, he wants to find a place where they can finally find a good job and their calling in life. In this comedy, the main characters are full of optimism in searching for happiness in another city. It is the reason why they leave their native city, where they failed to receive a good job. In turn, the main heroes of Matewan are trying to deal with the arbitrariness with the use of the weapons. Their unsuccessful attempts to improve working conditions with the support of trade unions led them to the idea of using pistols and shotguns in their struggle. Finally, the third film, which tells the story of Norma Rae's struggle for better working conditions in the factories, is a history of the victory.

It must be admitted without any doubt that all the three pictures have perfectly coped with their tasks. Each of them is a true historical description of past events. The significance of these films cannot be overstated, as they make a viewer think not only on the issues of decent working conditions for workers. They provide an opportunity to reflect on the value of human's life. An individual is above all a? individual, who is endowed with a desire for happiness and social justice. Thank to Modern Times, Matewan, and Norma Rae, a viewer can learn about what the human society has passed through in order to improve its rights , not only in professional sphere, but also in individual.



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