The Ghost of Duffy's Cut

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The Ghosts of Duffy’s Cut depicts a period in history in which Irish immigrants migrated to America with the hope of being able to take advantage of the opportunities that living in a new world had to offer. However, upon arriving to U.S. shores, many immigrants were subject to social inequality, exploitation, and living in harsh conditions. The tragic deaths of the fifty-seven Irish men on Duffy’s Cut exemplify how the causes and effects of immigration, industrialization as well as disease were all significant indicators of problems the Irish living in American in 1832 and thereafter were destined to face.

There were several factors that caused an influx of Irish immigrants to migrate to America. Some of these factors include poverty, and unemployment. For example, “Most of them came because of civil unrest, severe unemployment or almost inconceivable hardships at home,” (Irish and German Immigration). The Irish immigrants believed that coming to America would offer an escape of the poor living conditions and the harsh reality of being unable to care for oneself or family. The general hope was that America would offer peace, stability, job opportunities, and an overall better future. For instance, it is recorded that, “From 1820 to 1870, over seven and a half million immigrants came to the United States — more than the entire population of the country in 1810,” (Irish and German Immigration).

Another significant incident that caused a wave of Irish immigrants to come to America was famine, more specifically the potato famine in 1840’s. As stated before, finding employment in Ireland was quite difficult and a majority of poor families relied on agricultural labor in order to grow and live on potatoes. Watson describes how important this crop was to Irishmen: “These “potato people” spent their entire lives in back-breaking agricultural labor to gain access to a plot on which to grow a nutritious but fickle crop. Even in the best of agricultural cycles, hunger loomed each year and prospects for survival of those at society’s margins decreased,” (19). The dependency of potatoes was so high; therefore when the crop became contaminated it greatly affected the poorest of the country: “The poorest of the poor were hesitant to emigrate because they considered it exile and deeply feared the loss of their culture and extended family networks” (Watson et al., 20). Irishmen may have been reluctant to leave their homeland; however the potato famine caused both starvation and death. Therefore, migrating to America seemed to be the best solution.

Irishmen traveled by both sea and land to arrive to America. However, they would later learn that migrating to America would not provide the opportune life they had hoped for. In fact, the mere journey to America could have represented the reality of what was to come. For instance, Irish immigrants traveling on ships to U.S. soil were subject to harsh conditions resulting in death, “In many cases these ships were poorly built, crowded, disease-ridden, and short of food, supplies and medical services.  As a result, many Irish immigrants contracted diseases such as typhus, and many others died before reaching land,” (Irish Ships to America: Famous Ships of Irish Immigrants). However, most Irish immigrants generally believed that America would offer stability and provide better opportunities to live a better life.

The Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th century opened the door to job opportunities for many immigrants that flooded to the U.S; however, it also began to distinguish the social structure by helping to form an expendable lower class, such as the Irish immigrants. The industrial revolution created a shift toward high-powered machinery, factories, and mass production. It also improved methods of communication and transportation, such as building railroads.

Although these industrial advancements created job opportunities, it also allowed for those of a higher...
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