Life in the Iron Mills

by

Rebecca Harding Davis

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Mitchell Character Analysis

Mitchell is Kirby’s brother in law, who is in town to study the institutions of a Slave State. He is one of the men who visits the mill with Kirby, Doctor May, and the reporter, and is the man Deborah steals money from. Upon their meeting, Hugh is immediately fascinated by Mitchell, as he appears to be the kind of wealthy, intellectual gentleman that Hugh has always dreamed of being—even Mitchell’s voice seems to exude elegance. Hugh’s interactions with Mitchell make Hugh more painfully aware of his unsatisfying life and wasted potential. In addition, Mitchell is the only person in the group of visitors who understands the meaning behind Hugh’s statue, recognizing that the statue is hungry for life and for answers from God. Despite his artistic eye, Mitchell reveals himself to be cold, emotionally detached, and arrogant. Mitchell only interacts with Hugh for the sake of amusement, both at the mill and when visiting Hugh in prison. Although he is critical of Doctor May’s hesitance to help Hugh, Mitchell’s remarks seem to be said in jest. He ultimately distances himself from social issues, firmly asserting that the workers must rise up on their own without outside help.
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Mitchell Character Timeline in Life in the Iron Mills

The timeline below shows where the character Mitchell appears in Life in the Iron Mills. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Life in the Iron Mills
The Power of Art Theme Icon
The gentleman that Hugh doesn’t recognize is Kirby’s brother-in-law, Mitchell, who is visiting a Slave State “to study the institutions of the South.” He is... (full context)
Coping and Relief Theme Icon
The reporter leaves the mill, but Mitchell, Kirby, and Doctor May remain. Hugh begins to compare himself to Mitchell and grows increasingly... (full context)
The City vs. The Country Theme Icon
The Power of Art Theme Icon
After an hour, Mitchell, Kirby and Doctor May prepare to leave. As they turn the corner to exit the... (full context)
The Power of Art Theme Icon
Mitchell is captivated by the statue’s “poignant longing” and “one idea” that seems hidden in the... (full context)
The City vs. The Country Theme Icon
The Power of Art Theme Icon
Doctor May is confused about the statue’s meaning. Mitchell tells him to ask the artist himself, pointing to Hugh (somehow knowing Hugh is the... (full context)
The Power of Art Theme Icon
...live, I think,—like you. Whiskey ull do it, in a way.” Kirby laughs rudely, and Mitchell exclaims that the statue obviously “asks questions of God, and says, ‘I have a right... (full context)
Words vs. Actions Theme Icon
...is paying his workers in a timely manner. Trying to get Kirby worked up further, Mitchell quotes scripture and compares Kirby to Pontius Pilate. Mitchell also quotes scripture for Doctor May,... (full context)
Words vs. Actions Theme Icon
...May quickly shrinks back, claiming he doesn’t have the finances to be of actual help. Mitchell interrupts with a snide remark, and Doctor May sharply responds that helping Hugh would be... (full context)
The City vs. The Country Theme Icon
Hugh latches onto the idea that money is what can save him. Cynically, Mitchell agrees, calling money the solution to all the world’s problems. He sarcastically tells Doctor May... (full context)
Words vs. Actions Theme Icon
As Mitchell, Kirby, and Doctor May wait for their coach, Mitchell asserts that the workers must produce... (full context)
Words vs. Actions Theme Icon
Mitchell, Kirby, and Doctor May prepare to leave. As a parting word, Doctor May reminds Hugh... (full context)
Coping and Relief Theme Icon
After the men depart, Hugh is in agony. Somehow the conversation with Mitchell and Doctor May made him see his life in a new, terrible light, and all... (full context)
Coping and Relief Theme Icon
Words vs. Actions Theme Icon
Deborah quietly asks Hugh if he heard what Mitchell said about money—that money “wud do all.” Exhausted, Hugh ignores Deborah, but she persists, asking... (full context)
Coping and Relief Theme Icon
Words vs. Actions Theme Icon
...money hidden in his pocket. He tells Deborah firmly that he will return it to Mitchell, but Deborah tells him it is his “right to keep it,” echoing what Doctor May... (full context)
The City vs. The Country Theme Icon
...keep the other workers in line. He also notes that the night after the trial, Mitchell visited Hugh in jail out of curiosity.” Since then, Hugh has been quiet and growing... (full context)