Literature and History: The Development of American Culture to 1865

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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.



After our discussion in class, I still can’t help but think of the last paragraph where Babo’s head was put for display. How can his head/face be as Meville describes? It may not have been meant to be taken as literally but if we take the other sentences in the paragraph as it is, shouldn’t this make sense too? The direction of where his head is displayed is quite clear. Babo’s head was facing towards the St. Bartholomew’s Church where late Captain Aranda was buried and across the Rimac bridge towards the monastery where Cereno was. How can this one head face toward both these places? If they are in the same direction, how is the head able to look toward both places? The head is at one height and even if these places are at an uneven height (where one is taller than the other), how does this lifeless head gaze toward them? I understand with the Whites’ gaze because the people look at the head but with a lifeless and faceless head (how can his eyes be open?), how is it all possible? I keep trying to imagine it but I really find it hard to picture.


Despite the known perspective it was written in, this reading did not strike me as something written in the nineteenth century. If I read this without the historical background, I would have thought it was a produced in the twenty-first century. When I first read this, I thought the title, “An Indian’s Looking-Glass for the White Man” meant the life of a Native American that the White Man did not see. However, during class, I learned that the words “looking-glass” meant a mirror and not as literal. In fact, it showed what the Whites did to the Native American women in addition to how the Native Americans believed the Whites were. It was upsetting to see how the White Man would essentially rape these women who were just in their huts, just at home. In the reading, they mentioned this as “common prostitution.” Do we know if these women were given anything in return but a loss of face and dignity? If a white man had touched them (without being married), would the other Native American man see her as someone they would still be with or someone who is tainted?

Nevertheless, I really enjoyed how Apess presented the whites among all the other races. Most of our readings have put the whites as those who are superior but Apess thought otherwise. My favorite quote was, “If black or red skins or any other skin of color is disgraceful to God, it appears that he has disgraced himself a great deal — for he has made fifteen colored people to one white and placed them here upon this earth.” (Apess 1054) The whites are not the superior race because they are in the minority, there are other people in the world. I wonder what their reactions were to this writing because it really calls them out instead of praising how great their race is like all other works. What do you guys think happened when they read this? I mean for us, I believe we are more open minded than people of those times so can see both sides of the story.