Philip Levine: Poetry

Meaningful Reward: Approaches to Work in "Shirt" and "What Work Is" College

Besides the fact that humans are “creatures of habit”, why do most people chose to do the same thing every day? People wake up to the same maddening noises produced by their alarm clock in order to endure the same work they did the day before. What is the cause of this repetition? The poems “Shirt” by Robert Pinsky and “What Work Is” by Philip Levine allow readers a chance to answer this phenomenon and observe the essential roots of meaningful work from diverse perspectives.

The poem “Shirt”, by Robert Pinsky, represents the power to create excellence through adversity. Pinsky begins by visualizing a quality shirt. Understanding the unfortunate origin of the shirt, the poet continues to describe a setting within a sweatshop. Underpaid immigrant workers maintain normal social interaction within their poor working environment. As Pinsky digresses, the poem uses a direct allusion to the Triangle Waist Company fire (1911) to discuss improper working conditions. During the Industrial Revolution, the Triangle Waist Company stood as a typical sweatshop in Manhattan (New York). The factory was plagued with an unethical amount of immigrant workers and lack of safety precautions. Unfortunately, these faults within the Triangle Waist...

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