In chapter 6, we find the origin of the expression “sweat shop” and get a glimpse of the miserable jobs, repetitive and requiring no imagination or intellect, that the people of the abyss were grateful to have. Tiny factories existed within single rooms of tenements that were largely still used as residences. These sweating dens, as the were called, were run by what were known as sweaters. The sweated were people, including children, who worked in such little factories for up to 14 hours a day, finishing products started elsewhere, such as clothing, shoes, saddles, and many other manufactures. To hold a job of that sort, the worker had to seem eager, as well as being fast and efficient at the work. You didn’t want to get old or worn down in any way that might compromise your ability to do the job. Countless unemployed were waiting in the wings to replace any who fell behind. And, of course, machinery, like the sewing machine, was quickly replacing huge chunks of the manual labor. Again, this was an employer’s job market, and those employers could be as particular and ruthless as they chose to be.
The people were grateful to have these jobs? Just when we decide that the work isn’t worth it, Jack London is shown the alternative. He’s taken to a park that is overflowing with homeless. They are a miserable, diseased lot of men and women of all ages taking up most of the horizontal surfaces within a fenced garden area. They lean against one another, they use each other as pillows as nearly every one of them sleeps. The park closes at night and no sleeping is allowed there after dark. The police were charged with the task of preventing the homeless from sleeping out of doors.
—Alan M. Clark
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Author and illustrator Alan M. Clark grew up in Tennessee in a house full of bones and old medical books. His awards include the World Fantasy Award and four Chesley Awards. He is the author of seventeen books, including ten novels, a lavishly illustrated novella, four collections of fiction, and a nonfiction full-color book of his artwork. Mr. Clark’s company, IFD Publishing, has released 44 titles of various editions, including traditional books, both paperback and hardcover, audio books, and ebooks by such authors as F. Paul Wilson, Elizabeth Engstrom, and Jeremy Robert Johnson. Alan M. Clark and his wife, Melody, live in Oregon. www.alanmclark.com