Rebecca Davis grew up in an early American factory town; Wheeling West Virginia. Perhaps this provides a significant setting for life in the Iron Mills. The story depicts a life style, where people are marginalized and exploited through the rapid growth of the economy and social turbulence. This era also referred to Gilded Age was characterized by rapid industrialization, urbanization and wage slavery. In life in the Iron Mills, Hugh Wolfe was a peddler who could not adequately provide for his family despite money he makes after working over the hot fires. He spent his free time making a sculptures out of Korl and later destroys it upon finishing. What was the significance of this statute? What does it represent? Could he have spent his free time making such a statue without any significance. Of course no, the statute is of great significance.
In the novel, Davis novella does not only articulate body pain inflicted on the working class but also uses the statue to equally articulates the mental and psychological trauma women experience. Although the body of the statue looks strong outside and doesnt show any degree of starvation, Wolf replies to visitors, while referring to the statue that shes hungry (133). In this context, emotional constraints are invisible and her hanger is emotional. In similar context, writer notes that the statue is not beautiful, There was not one line of beauty or grace in it: a nude woman's form, muscular, grown coarse with labor, the powerful limbs instinct with someone` poignant longing(101).How is it important then? The statue is depicted as muscular to convey the desired emotional message that can be clearly understood by a man. May indicates that the statue is clutching: the peculiar action of a man dying of thirst."(102). The statue represents an endless desire to reach for something in desperation that is only known to her. She be hangry (110) signifies the incompleteness in a woman within this oppressive environment. The story is used to share the empathy and a sense of brotherhood with readers (Lasseter 175)
The statue represents self-struggle. The pain witnessed in iron mill can only be understood by the victims to an extent that the members of higher class cannot understand. Mitchell tries to demoralize the enthusiasm of May for the Korl statue by saying The Lord will take care of his own; or else they can work out their own salvation. I have heard you call our American system a ladder which any man can scale. Do you doubt it? Or perhaps you want to banish all social ladders, and put us all on a flat table-land, eh, May? (10). The statue represents inner relationship with God the statue "asks questions of God, and says, have a right to know.' Good God, how hungry it is!" (54). Through the statue, Hugh seeks divine intervention in regard to his hunger. At the end, Davis acknowledges the role of religion in the progress of America society slow, patient Christ-love, needed to make healthy and hopeful [her] impure body and soul (Davis, Iron Mills 73).
The Americans social structures are seen as oppressive in this context. the reality of soul-starvation, of living death, that meets you every day under that besotted faces on the street (6). Mitchel refers to the mill as a den Kirby is quoted saying Come, let us get out of the den. The spectral figures, as you call them, are a little too real for me to fancy a close proximity in the darkness, unarmed, too (9) The class inequalities is neglected by upper class because they are not victims. On the other hand, the lower class cannot disregard it because they are consistently reminded about it through the carving of the statue. In this case carving of the statue is a symbolic to a direct oppression. carving the statue is a form of freeing a man by making him see things from the same perspective she sees them, allow them to connect imagination with the reality as she notes reality of soul-starvation, of living death, that meets you every day under that besotted faces on the street (6). It Hugh Wolf, having been privileged to exist between the privileged upper class and working class, he has a higher mental ability above other ordinary workers. He can distant himself from his own body and displace his psychological suffering to other peoples body with an intention of exercising his mental control over physical. He does this by attempting to render his mental pain into the female body through a statue of the Korl woman
Carving also signifies the progressive and ascending status of woman in society. The statue by Wolf indicate that woman has acquired respect and power in society Davis defines the sculpture with her arms flung out in some wild gesture of warning muscular, grown coarse with labor, the powerful limbs, (101). The woman's statue releases power, or warning, it represents hunger for food and masculine of a woman despite the oppression.
The statue represents American realism and portrayal of the urban existence. The factories are equated to images of hell; they emit smoke with engine producing fiery metals. Exhausted workers return home after twelve hours shifts. The narrator is more of an advocator of social injustices explicit in urban America. This is represented well by the statue. Although the statue is that of a woman, it also reflects Wolfe's own desires, it illustrates an ordinary hungry worker struggling to grasp something from life. The statue signifies feminism through factories, it symbolizes a socially oppressed woman yearning for social acceptance and societal recognition. The progressive nature of a woman is displayed throughout the story through the statue. Symbolically, the statue shows a hardworking woman yearning for freedom in order to escape social oppression through emotional and spiritual struggle. However, the image in the statue is invisible to because they cannot understand how it feels to be socially oppressed and marginalized. The statue is masculine and displays no starvation because the suffering is emotional.
Davis, Rebecca Harding. Life in the Iron Mills. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 1997. Print.
Lasseter, Janice Milner. "The Censored and Uncensored Literary Lives of Life in the Iron Mills. " Legacy 20.1&2 (2003): 175. Humanities Module, ProQuest. Web. 15 Dec. 2009.
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