Subject Machine Age
Posted by Ann Chuang
Posted on Tue Jun 13 02:50:12 2000
From IP  

Machine Age
by Charles Reznikoff

A dozen pigeons on a roof
idling away the day.
But above them, part of the weathervane,
working away in the sun and wind,
head lifted,
the gilt rooster.

After industrial revolution, human power is replaced by the development of machines. The working class is more and more dominated by the capitalists, because they control the mode of production. In this poem, the poet uses pigeons, weathervane, and the gilt rooster to imply the relationship between the capitalists and the workind class.
Through the representation of different social classes used in this poem, we see life style is determined by economic power. The "pigeons" stand for the people of higher class; "idling away the day" suggests two things. Firstly, it implies higher class have more time and resources to enjoy life. Secondly, the bourgeoisie of society actually make little contribution. But above them, the weathervane is forced to work all day lond in the sun and wind. Compare the pigeon's "idling" with the weathervane's hard-working, the inequality between social class is exposed. WIth base and superstructure, the people of higher class have more comfortable lives, they enjoy talking about art, music, literature, while the working class people are working hard in the sun and wind.
Viewing from the relationship between the weathervane and gilt rooster, we can figure out employer/worker relationship. As the poet described, the gilt rooster is "head lifted", which hints employer's attitude toward the workers. Since job is everything for the workers, the employers are always proud and hold a high position. Employers actually "look down" the people work for them. Espeically with the development of technology, employers can simply replace the worker by machines. In this way, though the workers work for low pay or the time of work is too long, the worker can only accept this unfair treatment. The employers are exploiting the workers, but workers have nothing to do. Futhermore, "gilt" rooster also implies the employer's wealth. The disproportion of labor and wealth in the society dominated by capitalist is another problem the poet try to raise for us.
The poet made an interesting choice in comparing pigeons-weathervane-gilt rooster, only the weathervane is not animal. According to our acknowledgement of weathervane, we know it follows the direction of wind. Weathervane itself can not decide where it wants to go; its direction is set up by the wind. The passive role of weahtervane is like the working class, because the thougts are all formed by the outside force rather than themselves. Establishing an ideology, the capitalists can impose ideas and behavior codes upon working class, and then easily gain social and political control of whole society.
However, anther imagery of the weathervane also shows the poet's disguised attempt, which encourges the working class to build a better world and get rid of ideology. The function of weathervane functions as a direction-pointer, it can lead another direction of the world. Fighting against the capitalists, the working class will have the chance to ask a better treatment and socail justice.

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