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.
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