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Mother   By: (1868-1936)

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Maxim Gorky



Every day the factory whistle bellowed forth its shrill, roaring, trembling noises into the smoke begrimed and greasy atmosphere of the workingmen's suburb; and obedient to the summons of the power of steam, people poured out of little gray houses into the street. With somber faces they hastened forward like frightened roaches, their muscles stiff from insufficient sleep. In the chill morning twilight they walked through the narrow, unpaved street to the tall stone cage that waited for them with cold assurance, illumining their muddy road with scores of greasy, yellow, square eyes. The mud plashed under their feet as if in mocking commiseration. Hoarse exclamations of sleepy voices were heard; irritated, peevish, abusive language rent the air with malice; and, to welcome the people, deafening sounds floated about the heavy whir of machinery, the dissatisfied snort of steam. Stern and somber, the black chimneys stretched their huge, thick sticks high above the village.

In the evening, when the sun was setting, and red rays languidly glimmered upon the windows of the houses, the factory ejected its people like burned out ashes, and again they walked through the streets, with black, smoke covered faces, radiating the sticky odor of machine oil, and showing the gleam of hungry teeth. But now there was animation in their voices, and even gladness. The servitude of hard toil was over for the day. Supper awaited them at home, and respite.

The day was swallowed up by the factory; the machine sucked out of men's muscles as much vigor as it needed. The day was blotted out from life, not a trace of it left. Man made another imperceptible step toward his grave; but he saw close before him the delights of rest, the joys of the odorous tavern, and he was satisfied.

On holidays the workers slept until about ten o'clock. Then the staid and married people dressed themselves in their best clothes and, after duly scolding the young folks for their indifference to church, went to hear mass. When they returned from church, they ate pirogs, the Russian national pastry, and again lay down to sleep until the evening. The accumulated exhaustion of years had robbed them of their appetites, and to be able to eat they drank, long and deep, goading on their feeble stomachs with the biting, burning lash of vodka.

In the evening they amused themselves idly on the street; and those who had overshoes put them on, even if it was dry, and those who had umbrellas carried them, even if the sun was shining. Not everybody has overshoes and an umbrella, but everybody desires in some way, however small, to appear more important than his neighbor.

Meeting one another they spoke about the factory and the machines, had their fling against their foreman, conversed and thought only of matters closely and manifestly connected with their work. Only rarely, and then but faintly, did solitary sparks of impotent thought glimmer in the wearisome monotony of their talk. Returning home they quarreled with their wives, and often beat them, unsparing of their fists. The young people sat in the taverns, or enjoyed evening parties at one another's houses, played the accordion, sang vulgar songs devoid of beauty, danced, talked ribaldry, and drank.

Exhausted with toil, men drank swiftly, and in every heart there awoke and grew an incomprehensible, sickly irritation. It demanded an outlet. Clutching tenaciously at every pretext for unloading themselves of this disquieting sensation, they fell on one another for mere trifles, with the spiteful ferocity of beasts, breaking into bloody quarrels which sometimes ended in serious injury and on rare occasions even in murder.

This lurking malice steadily increased, inveterate as the incurable weariness in their muscles. They were born with this disease of the soul inherited from their fathers. Like a black shadow it accompanied them to their graves, spurring on their lives to crime, hideous in its aimless cruelty and brutality... Continue reading book >>

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