Analyzing the Text
Prior to the railroad, crossing the country was dangerous and could take up to six months. The Gold Rush in California, as well as Americans’ belief in Manifest Destiny fostered a strong desire to create a safer, quicker means of reaching the West Coast. In addition, lawmakers in our nation’s capitol were eager to create a safe means of allowing citizens to travel to, and settle, lands west of Omaha so that those citizens could mine for precious metals and provide an even greater tax base for the United States.
The Central Pacific had a difficult time initially recruiting enough workers for the project. In addition, once the workers began the job, it was difficult to clear the earth and lay the tracks through the Sierra Nevada. Also, the deserts in Nevada and Utah reached temperatures up to 120 degrees, making the work dangerous for the railroad workers.
The author’s purpose is to highlight the accomplishments and contributions of Chinese workers, as well as to point out the challenges, harsh conditions, and discrimination the faced while doing so. She includes examples of the Chinese workers’ idea of making and lowering baskets over the mountains, their knowledge of explosives, detailed descriptions of their work ethic under harsh physical conditions. She shows the discrimination they faced because they were paid less than white workers, white workers’ violence toward them, and their lack of recognition at the railroad completion ceremonies.
The author’s tone toward Chinese workers is symp>
Her tone is also disgusted with regard to the bosses who exploited the Chinese workers and the white workers who treated them badly. For example, she notes that the Chinese workers “out measured” white workers, and they “excelled” at working on the railroad. She quotes the bosses alternately admitting that the Chinese workers were “industrious” and “worked harder for less reward,” but then would call them a “degraded” people who were the “dregs” of Asia. She also noted that bosses “roared” that they would not work with Chinese people, and that the railroad owners were swift and ruthless in their treatment of Chinese workers who asked for better conditions.
She states it was an “unpredictable explosive,” and that others were afraid of working with it. She also notes that many workers died in accidents using it, and that the purpose of this explosive was to “speed up” the process, implying a certain recklessness.
The quotes of the owners and bosses serves to shock the reader a bit and emphasize the discriminatory way these people treated the Chinese. It also shows the hypocrisy of this discrimination when, by their own words, they admit that the Chinese were superior workers.
Homeric suggests a gigantic, historic feat against enormous obstacles. This relates to the general idea of the narrative that the Chinese workers persevered and succeeded despite horrible conditions and degrading discrimination in an almost super heroic manner.
The strike connects with the rest of the narrative by highlighting that the Chinese comported themselves in an admirable way with dignity in a reasonable effort to improve their intolerable conditions. It also hits on the idea that their behavior was better than how white workers would have conducted themselves. It reiterates a central premise that the Chinese workers outperformed white workers, but were treated much worse.