Literature and History: The Development of American Culture to 1865

Author Archive

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.


John Winthrop

I am an immigrant myself. I came to the state from Taiwan when I was 11. In my young mind I knew I was going to the land of opportunity and freedom. It was a place where I could dream and be whoever I wanted. It was the place to be. So when I read John Winthrop I was deeply amused by how “DIFFERENT” his idea of “America” would be to mine. He was a very serious person and he had a very serious idea of what would become of America. His speech to the Puritan I think was more restricting then being an Asian. It was morally restricting, not even physically or on the outside. He wants the Puritans to cleanse their mind completely and make God the center of all thinking. He uses his speech to unify the people by saying that we all need each other to survive. He basically gave a speech on how to “LIVE” to his people. I find this amusing because America started off with this person and it emerges into the land of “freedom”? I would of never though this would be the person who carried the vision of America. I kind of see someone with long flowing hair and runs naked in the woods to be the leader who brought the vision of Freedom to this nation. However, this contradiction image of how America started and what it is now is a very important image that we should see. In a way the Puritan were seeking FREEDOM from Europe. They were looking for a place to cultivate their religious beliefs. However, the moment that that received this freedom they put 100% force on keeping it aligned with their idea. It’s like when America declared independence from Britain they actually became more conservative then before. It’s just interesting to see how freedom doesn’t necessary bring “FREEDOM” but more “RESTRICTION” because “being free” is just so broad that it could easily take the minds of many to a very distant land and never return. That would be a scary thought if everyone have long hair and runs naked in the wood! that wouldn’t really make a nation, that would  make a tribe. there’s a difference I think…


Equiano gave me a different version of “FREEDOM”. I don’t really care if he wrote the story on slavery completely base off of his own experience of not. I find that really silly because I think what he is trying to bring to the reader is the importance of his understanding through slavery not whether the story is worth reading because it’s not completely true. If a person can see an idea through others and wants to deliver it to the general public who are “BLINDED” and he have the ability to deliver it powerfully, I don’t think it’s necessary to hold him against whether he wrote it completely from his own experience.

Reading his writing about slavery however did surprising gave me a completely perspective in SLAVERY and FREEDOM. Most of the time we see slavery as a horrible thing to have to go through and freedom would be making this person FREE from slavery. But we never really know what it is that we are freeing them from. Most of the time we FREE them as then we don’t know what to do with them next. How can you free one person into something an environment that they have no idea about. I think reading Equiano was a little disturbing for me at first because we see him transition into a person who adapts the western culture surprisingly well. He completely shed away his culture and adapted to the western culture. He sees that they are more advance and he wanted to be like them so he went through religious conversion and also survival of the fittest. I think the idea of freedom to a slave changed in my mind. I also see how he changes his situation from bad to good. I think Equiano was very positive and knew what he needed to do to survive. I think most of us is trying to survive in this world and even if we are not a slave we are trying to free ourselves from SOMETHING. Work, Money or Burdens. It seems like there are always certain things that hold us down and make us feel like we need LIBERATION. However, what is liberation? Equiano did receive the amazing opportunity to travel the world and see so many different points of views. He was educated and taught ideas that he probably would have never heard of if he stayed in Africa. Slavery is not good, that I will say is 100% true. But if we just take this away from Slavery I think Equiano hits an important understanding factor of our lives. Sometimes in life we just have to go with the Flow. What life leads us into and make the best out of it. Free ourselves from ourselves is what I got from Equiano’s writing.

Thomas Paine

When I read Thomas Paine I always feel a little worried for him. It seems like he really just “SAY” whatever he wants and somehow makes the weirdest connection between points that really seems to link with the COMMON PEOPLE that might not had the opportunity to have a full education. I like reading him because I feel like he is a honest man and what he write he exactly what he FELT inside. He is not covering the whole truth and embellishing his idea to fit the general public. He is not concerned with how other people perceived him. When Ben Franklin discovered him and recommended him to the American it was almost like being discovered from the street for Paine. He had the heart and courage to stand against the WORLD and be ahead of his time. However, we see that it was the aggressiveness that gave him his succes Paine s and failure. From the Common Sense to “Age of Reason” we hear the same voice but received different results. I applaud him for his courage but if we go back to what Adam Smith was talking about. The theory about how to release your anger and emotion correctly we can say Thomas completely failed. He can definitely “FEEL” but maybe if he took some of that “FEELING” back and think through it he wouldn’t have had such a harsh ending. However, we might then never have the opportunity to read something so NOT HIS GENERATION like the “Age of Reason” and see that idea being slowly processed through America’s history. I think he was bold enough to start the idea of questions whether religion is “THE WAY” to life and gave many after him to use him as a shelter or starting point. I believe that many before him also felt similar to what he was saying but never quite had the guts to just write a book on it. He took the lead and had a really depressing end to his leadership but most leaders tends to sacrifice a lot for what they believe it. If that idea is completely out of the mind of the public they usually receives sad results but after they death we see their ideas emerging into something else.

John Adam

Reading John Adam’s theory and his letters with his wife shows me that he is a much more calmer person than most of the political leaders at his time. He seems to be the person that is philosophical and think radically about the problem and the future of America. No doubt that he’s heart is with America because most of his letter talks about what his dream for this new country is and what his fear also. He believes that America is a revolution that will bring a new age to the world. The ideas that comes with America’s liberation from Britain will be a new chapter in many people’s life. One of his theory struck me with the similarity to what I’ve been thinking about lately. His theory on the social and the unsocial. Adam brings the question about how much can we really feel the pain of another person unless we actually went through the exact same process? Can we really sympathize those around us who are going through a personal hardship or pain? He then goes on and talks about how should one expresses pain and anger in a way that people could “ACCEPT”. Most of the time when we are near someone who is hysterically upset or angry we generally walk around that person and avoid him/ her. This is accurate even to this day and I think Adam’s on to something that is not only true to his generation but will always hold true to HUMAN BEINGS. The idea that we CAN bring ourselves to other people’s feeling and points of view if we allow ourselves to be humble and sympathetic by heightening our moral and imagination. Adam also suggest that it is also important to know WHAT to sympathize towards and if you SHOULD sympathize with. Everyone have eyes and can have compassion but it is important to cultivate your eyes and use your sympathy correctly. At the time I think Adam is urging his fellow American to come together as one and feel each other’s pain and understand each other with compassion, However to not fall into the hole of feeling without thinking. He also wants people to know that we should never become so vicious that we loose our humanity. The new generation rises in American after their declaration of independence. This new emerging idea of freedom is something that people can “FEEL”. Adam wants his reader to “FEEL” this idea and not only FEEL it but cultivate yourself to UNDERSTAND it. Help this movement move in the correct way with a compassion heart but cultivated mind. I believe his theory works in our every day lives. If we understand his theory it can be used on practically everything and it changes your point of view from SELF to OTHERS. It also changes your perspective on sharpening your thinking ability and understanding so that you have a mind of your own to count on when a newly revolutionary idea comes upon you. That this idea won’t make you irrational and lost but that you have what it takes to fully indulge it and process it so the best result may be delivered.

The Coquette

The coquette at the beginning seems to have a very predicable story line. almost like watching a bad drama that after reading just 1/3 of the book you could already tell what will eventually happen. However, the mystery and the meaning lies deeper within these dramatic lines. A powerful message about politics and generation leaps through to grabs a hold of your attention. it alerts all readers to not be like Eliza Wharton and completely indulge herself in her FREEDOM. Freedom is liberating and it’s addictive, it’s hard to know when’s the limit to how much freedom one should intake. I find that the first time reading the coquette gave me an uneasy feeling toward the unfair outcome to Eliza Wharton’s life. As a woman I question why the Author pushes the idea of a “CONSERVATIVE” and “RESTRICTED” life for a woman asa the best way to without ending up like Eliza. I wonder if that’s the only solution to have a happy life. It’s almost like Eliza only have two man to choose from. One is the flirtatious Standford and the other is the boring Boyer. Is it really true that a woman can only choose from the two extreme? Either suffer from being wild and eventually be punished with death or STILL suffer from the boring life and wishes to be dead. It puzzled my mind for a while after reading the novel. However, during the class discussion I realize a different perspective that the author is trying to bring by using the two extreme. The author is also a female and I think she is not trying to give the DEAD-END sign for her fellow sisters. In class discussion a political idea of “how much freedom should one receives without wrecking it?” was brought out and it opened my mind to a new meaning. Instead of using Eliza Wharton’s situation only on WOMAN if we put it onto the new generations of America we see a whole new idea. Maybe Hanna was trying to warn the newly emerging Americans that while we rejoice the freedom of our new country we also have to beware of the outcome that can come with these freedom. If don’t watch where we are stepping we can easily step out of the line and have a terrible ending like Eliza’s. When I read the book again with this new perspective I am not enraged by the idea that woman have to live such a rigid life but understands that it’s not only for the woman but for the whole mankind. We are always living between two extremes trying to find the balance and the grey spot. This novel is a dynamic book that allows the reader to open their eyes and heart to accept a greater perspective not a narrow one.