Saturday, October 12, 2019

Review of "On the Ropes: A Novel," by James Vance and Dan E. Burr

Review of

On the Ropes: A Novel, by James Vance and Dan E. Burr ISBN 9780393351224

Five out of five stars

 This graphic novel is based on a lot of history, much of which is no longer heavily emphasized in the educational curricula. The setting is the United States in 1937, where the Depression is still heavy and even the employed struggle to make ends meet. Large corporations do not hesitate to hire thugs to beat up union organizers and some of those doing the beating wore police and National Guard uniforms. Major newspapers, the only real mass media outlet at the time, often took the side of the companies, claiming that people fighting for a union and decent wages were “Reds,” the common term for communists at the time.

 The main character is Fred Bloch, a young man that lost his leg in a train accident and has found what passes for a home in a traveling circus funded by the WPA. He is apprenticed to Gordon Corey, an escape artist that has shackles put on his arms, a hangman’s rope around his neck and then at the count of five the trap door under his feet is opened. Although Gordon is clearly a man on the edge of self-destruction, he always manages to carry out his daring escape.

 There is a great deal of labor strife and Fred is associated with a national organization of labor organizers. He is a message runner and is being stalked by two ruthless men employed by the corporations. They will not hesitate to kill to carry out their mission, and that includes the brutal slaughter of women that go contrary to their wishes.

 This is a tough graphic novel, yet it revisits the days of the Depression when workers striking for union recognition and higher pay were killed, some of which were women marching in solidarity with the men. It is also important for the current generations to understand that the Depression was an extremely tough time and standing up for your worker rights could mean getting beaten or shot. It is a book that could be used in history classes in order to provoke discussion and further research and a reminder of the past struggles of labor.

No comments:

Post a Comment