Lynn Nottage

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Sweat: Act 1, Scene 7 Summary & Analysis

July 4, 2000. In the news, the pay gap between men and women is narrowing; Reading cracks down on a recent increase in violent crime and takes measures to combat urban blight. As Chris and Jason rush out of the bar, Brucie (who’s smoking a cigarette outside) asks Chris if his mom is inside. Chris says she isn’t and tells Brucie to give Cynthia some space. Then, Brucie begs Chris for money until he hands over $10. Chris and Jason are in a hurry: they tell Brucie that Olstead’s moved three mills out of the factory over the long weekend. Management posted a list of names (including Chris and Jason) on the door that no one was supposed to see until tomorrow, so Chris and Jason are rushing over to read the list for themselves.
Again, while society as a whole is seemingly progressing, Reading is still facing social and economic problems, emphasizing how working-class communities often don’t experience any benefits when other socioeconomic groups undergo a positive upswing. Meanwhile, the fact that Olstead’s has gotten rid of machines and posted names on the door doesn’t bode well for the workers—it seems the company is going forward with cutting overhead and is beginning to cast its employees out in an underhanded manner, which will only add to people like Chris and Jason’s sense of disillusionment with the system.
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Brucie laughs cynically and warns Chris and Jason that this is only the first step; he advises them to take the small concessions they’re offered before there’s a lockout and temporary labor is brought in. This is the situation Brucie is in—he and the other textile mill workers walked out, and there hasn’t been a resolution in the nearly two years since. Brucie gives Chris his $10 back and warns them that no machines means no jobs. Chris and Jason run off to Olstead’s.
As a drug addict who’s resorted to begging his own son for cash, Brucie is a prime example of how far people can fall when they’re locked out and their livelihoods are stripped away from them. His comment about temp workers also raises a red flag, as it reaffirms the possibility that Olstead’s is recruiting people from Reading’s Latinx community as temporary labor, which will certainly worsen the racism already being espoused by people like Tracey.
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