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Matewan Directed By John Sayles Essay

559 words - 2 pages

Matewan Directed by John Sayles

John Sayles illustrates a feudalistic society in 1920 in his film, Matewan. Matewan is a mining town in West Virginia dominated by the Stone Mountain Cole Company. The company creates most of the labor opportunity in town, providing positions for unskilled laborers as miners. Sayles shows how the company acted as a feudalistic lord. The Stone Mountain Cole Company controlled housing, food, spending and debt of its workers. The company paid the miners per tone instead of an hourly wage. In addition to the tonnage, the company provided the workers only with script, instead of actual cash, limiting the workers to purchasing items from the company store. The Stone Mountain Cole Company demanded the workers to sign a contract which instituted restrictions for the miners beyond work. The life of a miner in Matewan was spent working not only to earn a living, but also to pay off the debt instituted by the company before the miner began working. The company not only owned most of the town, but also the morals and thoughts of its workers. The company convinced its workers what was "morally right" and what was "morally wrong" (i.e.. unions). When Jo Calahan came to town, bringing his ideas of unions and communism, he was obviously negatively received. Jo's communistic beliefs threatened the feudalistic society of Matewan.

Joe provided the people of Matewan the ability to stand up for their rights. He taught the workers that one single worker held little influence, but collectively, the miners were empowered. Joe preached the coming together of all people to form a union. His union looked beyond the racial...

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