In His Steps Analysis The turn of the century was marked by a movement known as the Progressive Era, during which many groups sought to reshape the nation’s government and society in response to the pressure of urbanization and industrialization. Progressives were mainly members of the Post-Civil War generation that made an attempt to master a world much different then that of their parents. With the rise of big business and industrialization came several problems associated with the economic boom.
The rich were getting richer. The poor were getting poorer. The gap between the “haves” and the “have nots was widening.
Working conditions were not regulated, and at the turn of the century, the United States had a terrible record of workplace safety.During the Progressive Era, many steps were taken in order to correct the mounting problems facing an industrial America. The National Consumers League, for example, formed in 1898 sought to monitor businesses and ensure decent working conditions. There were also problems associated with the rising rates of urbanization. Due in part to the increasing number of immigrants and the trend to move toward the cities, many sanitation and safety issues came into question. Members of the working class made their homes in ghettoes and tenements where they faced overcrowding, lack of sanitation and general safety concerns.
Laws such as the New York Tenement House Law of 1901 came into existence with the purpose of establishing a regulated housing code for safety and sanitation. The Progressive Era also brought up social issues. Muckrakers, journalists who exposed social, economic and political evils, controlled media and therefore had profound influence over the thoughts and opinions of readers.For example, Upton Sinclair’s novel, The Jungle depicted in great detail the poor conditions existent in America’s meatpacking industry. The novel and subsequent investigations led to the Meat Inspection Act of 1906. This is just a glimpse as to the key role that muckrakers had in the Progressive society.
Another key element of the Progressive Era was the Social Gospel. The Social Gospel sought to bring religious ethics into industrial relations and everyday life. Several followers of the Social Gospel questioned the accuracy of the bible and instead focused more on the basic moral and ethical lessons it entailed.As a result of the Social Gospel and the feelings that were engulfing the nation, Charles Sheldon, a Kansas minister wrote a book entitled In His Steps.
The novel tells the story of upper class minister who challenges the members of his congregation to live their lives according to “what Jesus would do”. Throughout the novel, many inferences are made and several parallels exist between the novel and the actual time period in which it was set. The most obvious link between In His Steps and the actual Progressive Era is that the entire plot of the novel is based on the theory of the Social Gospel. The small town minister challenges a handful of willing congregates to base their every decision on what they feel Jesus would do in the situation. As a result, those who pledged to abide by the idea were then placed in the predicament of taking old fashion stances on modern issues, for Jesus was never confronted with such issues, which therefore diminished any possible guidelines. Their lives became consumed by the actions that Jesus would take, and as a result changed forever.
Another parallel existent in the novel is the idea of the tenements or ghettoes. Those who accepted the minister’s challenge were of strong backgrounds-both financially and morally. They were each citizens of the well to do town of Raymond, and few of them had ever taken the time to see exactly what existed beyond their safety blanket.Once Rachel Wilson accepted the offer to sing to people whom lived near the “Rectangle”, those from the parish were opened up to a whole new world- one they were shocked to realize existed! In his list of “Things that Jesus Would Probably Do In This Parish”, Henry Maxwell noted that he wanted to befriend the people of rectangle.
He felt that he and his teachings had something to offer the people. In terms of the Progressive Era, this potion of the novel reflects the emergence of the tenement dwellers and their lower class ways. It also points to the gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots”. There is also reference made in the novel to the poor workplace conditions.Mr. Powers, the head of the Railroad in town, has the idea to convert a former storage room into a comfortable break room, furnished with tables and chairs and even offering coffee. This points to the Progressive Movement in that it was a major concern of some to improve the working conditions of the nation’s factories and such. After the tragic disaster at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company, much attention was given to the welfare of employees and the general safety of their working conditions.
The reference in the novel goes to show the importance of the issue on the real world scale.The issue of the print media is also given attention. Take the story of Edward Norman, the newspaper editor, for example. Once engaged in practices similar to that of the muckrakers, he is then forced to put his vow to God in front of his business commitment. He stops publishing a Sunday edition of his newspaper, much to his customers’ dismay. Sunday, in his mind, is the Sabbath day- a day of rest and holy devotion.
The content of his paper also changes, now neglecting the modern controversial issues such as politics that consumed the time period.This portion of the novel portrays the influential position that the print journalists had on the society at the time. The issue of women is also very delicately handled in the novel. The character of Rachel Winslow is the magnificent, talented church choir member.
Her talents far exceed the walls of the church in which she entertains. Her mother is excited at the prospect of Rachel traveling with a comic opera company, but her beautiful daughter turns down the fruitful offer.Instead, Rachel volunteers to go out to the Rectangle and spread the word of God and the joy of her singing. This relates to the role that women played in this time period. Women were placed in a role of bettering society.
Many women took up roles in organizations that were devoted to make a positive difference in American Society. Women lobbied for Child’s labor reform and woman suffrage. Rachel Winslow demonstrates these qualities in the novel.
In conclusion, the parallel existent in the novel and in real life is quite obvious. The novel accurately depicts the time period in an entertaining, thought provoking manner. The Progressive Era certainly marked a change in American Society, and many positive things came out of it. Bibliography N/a History Essays.