“Life in the Iron Mills” is a short story by Rebecca Harding Davis that tells us about industrial iron mill working life in the mid nineteenth century. I feel the need to point out what James C. Austin missed out in his article “Success and Failure of Rebecca Harding Davis”. From my perspective from what Austin has written is that he is very shallow and surface level with what he has to say in relation to the short story. Yes Davis wrote a story showing the grim lives of the industrial workers in Americas Mills, which in one way shows realism, but nowhere in Austin’s article truly describes how she does that, and I in this essay will use articles from other journalists to show that she did so, I want to make say that his points have relevancy regarding Austin’s description of the setting, but that isn’t the purpose of the article, the purpose of the article is to show the pitfalls and achievements of Davis
From reading Austin’s article he states these narrow minded claims “The story depicts in realistic detail the lot of mill workers whose only hope is in pitying God” (Davis 45). I agree with this statement that this story shows the lows of mill workers but realistically it is much deeper than that. There are many different traits that stood out to me, even religious assumptions that I will build up on, this helps the story develop, not just plot wise, but through Deborah and Hugh Wolfe. At the start of the short story Rebecca Harding Davis describes Deborah as a lady that has spiritual destitute, this from my perspective shows poverty in both lacking spirituality and economically. Harris 1989, “From Romanticism to Realism” addresses a good point that Austin missed, “Davis’s purpose in this narrative frame is to lure readers into this new form of fiction without alienation them before they decent into the lower realms” I agree with Harris this type of writing definitely caught my attention. It clearly shows Davis at her best, describing the setting in the first couple pages, not only sets the tone and mood of the story, but it gives the reader the allusion of this is what the setting is, and here is what happened. Many stories tend to start with surface level plots and characters, whereas Davis has set a dark miserable setting giving us the notion that this book isn’t going to be a happy fun reading short story. Austin describes the gloominess was presented, but it wasn’t just that, because there was a reason for the gloominess.
I want to say that Austin’s article is important on a level of plot and simple summary of the story, but that wasn’t the purpose of why I was writing, I felt his article had some importance but on a deeper level of analysis he failed to argue the realistic vs. romantic side of the story. Austin’s goal was to show the pitfalls of Davis, whereas Harris’s goal was to show the reasoning behind realism and romanticism. Readers can assume that everyone that worked in the iron mills had a rough life, but from what Harris says in 1989 (page 7) Davis emphatically joins this distortion of nature with that of human life, now a "slow stream ... creeping past, night and morning, to the great mills. I came to a conclusion that this is much deeper than just showing a day to day life of these mill workers that were pretty much in some form of slavery. I saw it as something that these iron workers don’t have a choice to do, they not only have a zero percent chance of making it out of here, but they will inevitably die here, yes, it is that sad. Nevertheless I viewed this in light of how Davis showed this through her writing as a way of showing the bleak narrow future of the workers. She did this though the “slow stream”; I interpreted just these two words as a slow, boring, and never-ending life of the iron workers. This overall reflects the purpose of Harris’s works due to the fact that it depicts the realities of Iron mills and the relation to reality versus romanticism.
Moving on to the idea of...
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