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Life in the Iron Mills

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Rebecca Harding Davis captures the horrid lives of Hugh Wolfe and the rest of the lower class through vivid imagery and a sympathetic story line. The “ Life in the Iron-Mills” revolves around Hugh and Deborah Wolfe. It is taken place in the mid 1800s in an unknown factory ridden town. The narrator tells the story through first person as middle class citizen of unknown origin or gender. I believe this story mainly is a representation of the corrupt and unequal social structure that the author may have been living in at the time.

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The Story starts out with a detailed description of the “town of iron-works”, that they live in. The author really emphasizes the smoke coming from the mills that is covering the town. “The idiosyncrasy of this town is smoke. It rolls sullenly in slow folds from the great chimneys of the iron-foundries, and settles down in black, slimy pools on the muddy streets. ” The main character Hugh Wolfe is portrayed as a lost soul, one with talents that were being wasted in the pits of the iron mills.

His cousin Deborah is a disfigured woman who also seems lost.

She takes Hugh dinner everyday even if it means missing her own meal. The conditions that these two live in are very vulgar. The author describes the lives of the lower class as “ incessant labor, sleeping in kennel-like rooms; eating rank pork and molasses, drinking. The Wolfe’s barely have enough money to provide significant portions of food for themselves. When the overseers come to visit their mill they have come with no sympathy towards these lower class workers as if they were where they belonged. They even laugh at the fact that the place is so uncomfortably hot. This is hot with a vengeance. ”. “If it were not that you must have heard it so often, Kirby, I would tell you that your works look like Dante’s Inferno. ” The author really focuses on the poor conditions of these lower class people through descriptive detail and use of imagery.

Rebecca Harding Davis uses the statue made by Hugh Wolfe as a symbol of social oppression to the lives of the lower class. “ There was not one line of beauty or grace in it: a nude woman’s form, muscular, grown coarse with labor, the powerful limbs instinct with someone poignant longing. The statue is of a working woman whose facial features and physical appearance shows pain, misery, and hunger. I believe the deeper meaning in the statue is that at the time the lower class, especially women, were being treated unfairly. The women in society had no chance at becoming anything more than just a house wife. The statue’s facial expression was screaming hunger as if she was working hard but, still did not have enough money to feed herself adequately. When the men asked Hugh about the statue all he said was “ She be hungry.

The statue and Hugh together bring out true meaning of what the author is trying to portray. Hugh is somewhat educated and obtains a special talent that is being locked up in the “den” of the mills and he sculpts a statue of a working women. I analyzed this as that women in society who are just as capable as men could be working and doing great things in the world but, are being oppressed and their talents are being wasted just like Hugh’s. In the end, Hugh ends up going to jail for theft and living his last days of life doing hard labor just as he was doing before.

Cite this Life in the Iron Mills

Life in the Iron Mills. (2016, Nov 14). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/life-in-the-iron-mills/

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