Literature and History: The Development of American Culture to 1865

Life in the Iron Mills

Sometimes I stay up all night to work on a project in school and I would take a coffee break every few hours to try to stay alive. My favorite coffee break is when it’s about 4 or 5 in the morning. The streets are not filled with cars and you could linger just a few seconds longer in the middle of the street and look down the avenue. In my own opinion the streets of New York looks the finest at this hour. There’s an early morning lightness and calmness to the city which seems to clear off all the modern character of it. The feeling in the air brings my imagination to the “old new york”. I brought this up because when I read “Life in the Iron MIlls” a certain characteristic of how I imagine the old new york rises. It looks a little bit like how New York looks like in the morning. It’s quieter but you know there’s life and energy. I think life in the city sometimes take away your focus and people around you all walk with their gazes on one thing. They don’t notice you. They forgot to look up or look around at beautiful buildings, the sky and how the lights reflects. The lack of presence of soul fills the air because we are all like robots set on one thing and never saw anything else better in life. I am trying to relate to the story of “life in the iron mills”. I think that is important because the narrator’s goal to to urge us to see that picture. That despair that comes from within these mills and hear the cries of the people that want to do more than just the mills. When I read “life in the Iron Mills” I am drawn more towards the character that encounter the mills and their reaction. We have the mills owner, a doctor and Mitchell. I understand the story is about Debra and Hugh’s depressing lives at  the mill but I am more interested in people that encounters the mill because you hardly get any sense of character from them in the story. In someway I feel like when the narrator describe Debra and Hugh they had more of a soul then when she described the others who encounters. I’m not sure if that’s a point or she is just trying to focus only on Debra and Hugh. However, I feel like there’s a connection. As the reader we feel somewhat alike with the encounters. The scary part is that we are less of a human than the people at the mill. Where’s our emotion? where’s our heart? and where’s our soul? It’s lost in this city that tells us we have to climb the ladder of success. We see only one goal and that fire inside our body burns away everything else to keep that one thing alive in our eyes. It’s makes us narrow in vision and can not see the possibilities that is around us. I find it saddening that the mill owner, the doctor and the mitchell could not relate to Hugh. To them, Hugh was just another person they saw, he was nothing but another person. However, there’s so much more to that than just another person. There’s life and a story. I read this story and I feel like something is banging in my heart telling me this is not just a story about the HISTORY. We are also history and if we don’t see the connection between this story and our lives I think we could all end up emotionless, walking in straight lines and souless without knowing it.


3 responses

  1. cynthiaqiu

    Wow, I did not see it that way and I agree with you, I think that is brilliant. There are just so many things we take for granted or that we just simply overlook. It is so true when people are walking to work or to school that they are focusing on just one thing and are completely oblivious to everything around them. I can relate because when I am heading to school and I am walking down 6th avenue, I try to block everything out except for the view of school. I do not want to interact with anyone around me especially around that area and even to work, I focus on getting there on time without taking a moment to look at those around me. I wonder, what would happen if people actually stop to look around and give a helping hand somewhere. What if a person stopped and had a conversation with strangers, what would change in that exact moment? Imagine one day to have taken your time to speak to someone who looks as if they are in need, who knows, maybe we could have sparked something in their lives that can change their overall outlook.

    Or even .. how many people actually know the history around them?

    December 11, 2011 at 2:32 am

  2. cynthiaqiu

    OH ! There is this book that I am reading that can related to your post! “How Starbucks Saved My Life,” written by Michael Gates Gill can relate to how its not just another person but another life and story. Michael Gills used to be a top executive but because of the profession he was in, the company needed new and younger workers for fresh ideas. He was shortly fired and it posed a serious financial problem for him and his family. He always spent what he had and did not save much but no one knew this, everyone knew Michael as one who is financial stable and spends all he wishes. So likewise with the owners of the factory, they did not know the private lives of Debra and Hughes. Because of one encounter, it helped him get his life back on track. A question from a Starbucks manager changed his life — “Do you want a job?” Having put his ego aside, he accepted the offer from the manager and things were not easy but he managed to piece everything back together slowly. This shows how one act of kindness or an act outside of our routine and comfort zone may change another person’s life, becoming Michael’s story.

    December 16, 2011 at 1:30 am

  3. l agree that one conversation forced Hugh and the owners to see things from the others point of view even if just for a split second. It is so common to us to walk around without stoping to say hello or even good morning. NY like the iron mills can be a cold place. Just like the mills we have dirt and pollution. Even walking down the street people will blow smoke as you pass and not say sorry. Instances like these make NY just like the mills. However there are a few souls out there who still speak up in a room full of silence. Sometimes people do random asks of kindness that extend to something bigger and better like in Michael’s case.

    December 17, 2011 at 4:32 pm

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