Life in the Iron Mills

by

Rebecca Harding Davis

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Statue Symbol Icon

The statue of a woman that Hugh carves out of korl, a byproduct of making iron, symbolizes Hugh’s longing for more in life. When visitors to the mill (Doctor May, Kirby, and Mitchell) stumble across the statue of the woman and interrogate Hugh about its meaning, Hugh explains that she is “hungry,” not necessarily for food, but rather for life. This craving mirrors Hugh’s own maddening desire for depth, beauty, and happiness. In addition, Hugh carves the statue in a crouching position with her arms extended in a frantic way, making her look as if she is vehemently warning the viewer about something. In this way, the statue also symbolizes the way that both the author, Rebecca Harding Davis, and the unnamed narrator seek to reveal hidden meanings within the text and warn the reader about the dangers of industrialization.

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Statue Symbol Timeline in Life in the Iron Mills

The timeline below shows where the symbol Statue 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 City vs. The Country Theme Icon
The Power of Art Theme Icon
...a “gesture of warning.” Upon closer examination, the men realize that the woman is a statue. One of the lower overseers at the mill tells the men that the statue is... (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 woman’s limbs and expression. Doctor... (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... (full context)
The Power of Art Theme Icon
Hugh answers that the statue of the woman isn’t hungry for food. Kirby sneers at Hugh’s answer and asks what... (full context)
The Power of Art Theme Icon
...first person, the narrator says that the only sign that Hugh ever lived is the statue of the korl woman, which now sits behind a curtain in the narrator’s library. Tonight,... (full context)
Coping and Relief Theme Icon
The Power of Art Theme Icon
...of the night, a “cool, gray light” shines through the room and rests on the statue. The narrator thinks the statue’s outstretched arm seems to point to the “far East,” where... (full context)