Life in the Iron-Mills:The “Underside of American Prosperity”
“Is this the end?”
O Life, as futile, then, as frail!
What hope of answer or redress?
Life in the Iron-Mills is a reading that is one of the most profound readings we have read so far. The quote, in the beginning of the story, “Smoke everywhere! A dirty canary chirps desolately in a cage besides me. Its dream of green fields and sunshine is a very old dream,-almost worn, I think.” I feel that this quote sets the tone for the rest of the story in how Deborah and Hugh live their lives in this time. The dirty canary, dirty and covered with dirt and ashes, symbolizes Deborah and Hugh, who are trapped in their lives, in a cage. They dream of being in another life, a life where they will not work so hard and live in complete turmoil and poverty. Their dreams of a better life seems to be an old dream of theirs, something they can never attain, and it seems as if they have stopped trying and accept the lives they were given. It is so hard to imagine the lives of Deborah and Hugh while reading this story. How difficult their lives are just to meet their basic needs. They work in such harsh and unforgiving conditions and their work never seems to be enough to make ends meet. As they numb their minds and their bodies, “By night and day the work goes on, the unsleeping engines groan and shriek, the fiery pools of metal boil and surge.” Throughout the story, I can almost feel their pain that they put their bodies through every day just to survive and the breathless air that they breathe. They are miserable, and lead lives of unhappiness, empty of excitement or passion.
It is so interesting to read a story about the bad side of industrial revolution. There are so many stories and history books that boast the inventions and growth that developed at the time. When, in actuality, so many people were taken advantage of.