Literature and History: The Development of American Culture to 1865

What Really Goes On …

I enjoyed reading “Life in the Mills” because not only does it depict how life was during the Industrial times for the poor, it is also a story that many people can relate to. In order for others to prosper, there has to be others doing work for him or her. If not, then there would be no growth in any way as all would be equal. The lives of these factory workers were horrendous for they had long hours with little pay whereas the owners wandered about freely. The lives of Deborah and Hugh was definitely a struggle from living day to day on paycheck to paycheck. The conditions were unsanitary but they had to do what they could to survive and for this, I really applaud them. They often had little to eat and still had the strength to keep living though in the end, it was not what they had dreamed of. I am currently reading a book, “Lost in Translation” by Jean Kwok and it can relate to Deborah and Hugh’s lives. There is a mother and daughter who immigrated to the United States in order to have better opportunities for the daughter and upon arriving here, it was not what they had expected. The house the mother’s sister rented to them was on the verge of being demolished and the insides were not the ideal living situation with mice and roaches roaming about. Despite these living conditions, the mother worked at a clothing factory where dust and other chemicals are in the air resulting in an unsafe working environment. At this time, child labor was banned but the daughter, Ah-Kim had to help her mother after school everyday and struggled to fit in to school. Working in the factory was difficult as they had to stay late to rush a shipment and being paid per garment was no way to survive. Each garment cost 2 cents and so, a train ride cost them a few hundred skirts. Meanwhile, the factory owner lived in a spacious house with a son who went to private school.


It just shows that in order for others to prosper, there has to be sacrifices made. It really is heartbreaking to read how people lived in those days and of course, it still happens today, in all industries. Our low prices = low wages for those in third world countries.


2 responses

  1. jlblakely

    I fully agree with this entry. Firstly, with your point about inequality of prosperity and wealth, it brings to mind a term called a “zero sum game” that I learned about in my philosophy/ethics class this semester. Zero sum game, in terms of ethics, is when no wealth is produced but the good, like poker chips, merely gets moved from one person to another. According to your thoughts, in which I also agree, in systems like capitalism some people get more rich because other people are becoming more poor. This is exactly what happened during the industrial times of “life in the Iron Mills” as well as in many industrial situations today. So many people such as Deborah and Hugh went to work everyday, which was essentially their life, in unsafe and dangerous conditions and make a meager salary that could barely allow them meet basic needs in life. Secondly, this brings to mind the way our technology or the way most of the goods we consumer are made, our low prices=low wages for those in third world countries. Just think about how much attention Nike has gotten for treating their workers oversees like slaves with meager pay and placing them in dangerous working conditions with little worker protection. It makes you think, why do these billion dollar companies think this is okay? Apparently many powerful companies do simply because they know they can get away with it. This also brings to mind Apple Inc. and how the devices we used every day are probably made in unsafe working conditions where the person slaving over producing them is being exposed to toxins and is making just cents a day with a family to feed. Sad but true, just as “life in the Iron Mills” involves a poor and desperate Deborah and Hugh, it can probably be guaranteed that there are many Deborahs and Hughs out there who are slaves to industrialization, bending over backwards to make ends meet.

    December 16, 2011 at 5:19 am

  2. cynthiaqiu

    RIGHT! “It makes you think, why do these billion dollar companies think this is okay?” It’s so upsetting to see how money can do so much in some settings whereas it may also bring us the complete opposite. Money, money, and money. The billion dollar company knows that the workers they hired need money and so even if they offer these low wages, these workers are willing to work. Sometimes, I want to imagine a world without needing or using money. What would that be like? I really wonder how things would be different, would there be a class between the people, would life be easier?

    I remember reading “The Giver” when I was in fifth grade and in their world, their careers and family are chosen for them. The children are deemed in units and almost everyone was equal, all except for one. Although each person had different jobs, they received this “job” after they graduated from school and so it was a continuous cycle. There was no pain, no color and no excitement in this world but everything was easy and had gone smoothly. However, for everyone to be happy and live a carefree life, there was one person who was sacrificed. This person was chosen to see color, to feel, to remember all the painful memories and he was the only one. I remember when I was reading that I thought about living in that world but hey, who knows?

    December 16, 2011 at 1:53 pm

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