The young girls of Melville’s short story and Chaplin in “Modern Times”

Both the young girls in Melville’s “The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids” and Chaplin in the silent film “Modern Times” are similarly effected by their work in factories. In the short story the girls work long hours in the paper mill, producing countless amounts of blank paper. These girls are consumed by their factory work. The narrator describes them as, “blank-looking girls, with blank, white folders in their blank hands, all blankly folding blank paper.” (1270) The constant use of the word “blank” emphasizes the fact that the women working at the mill do not just have jobs, but a way of life, in which they are totally consumed by their duties. The narrator  then describes the physical appearance of one girl as a, ” face pale with work and blue cold” (1270) and later reports that these young women are, “young and fair” as well as, “ruled and wrinkled” (1271). The use of the words “wrinkled” and “ruled” are especially harsh since, these are usually not adjectives we think of using when mentioning young, unwed girls.  Such detail given by the narrator illustrates how these workers are completly absorbed in the technology, loosing their individuality and substance. As they are now just empty human beings.

Similarly, Chaplin in the silent film is consumed by his factory job. He works on an assembly line, moving at a very fast pace, screwing bolts into small pieces of machinery probably used to create one large machine later in the process. Comparably, Chaplin, liked the young girls at the mill, works very long hours doing one type of duty. Continuously doing the same work consumes his life and he begins to do the same arm motions done in his work everywhere he goes, leading to his nervous breakdown and  causing the factory to be in complete disarray and chaos. Chaplin physically cannot stop himself.

Although Chaplin’s situation changes later in the film, at the time he and the young girls in the paper mill, are trapped in technology. Both have been broken down from human beings with thoughts and personality to now empty objects, as Chaplin and the factory workers act like the machines they operate. Interestingly, both the young girls and Chaplain fall victim to a factory system that is meant to make life easier.