Life in the Iron Mills


Rebecca Harding Davis

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The River Symbol Analysis

The River Symbol Icon

The river that runs through the city and out to the countryside represents the evils of industrialization and the promise of nature. To illustrate this, the narrator uses personification, lending the river thoughts and feelings about the world around it. Within city limits, the river is tired, as its slow-moving, muddy waters constantly lug the barges and boats that are loaded with cargo. In contrast, the river feels relieved and energized once it reaches the countryside, surrounded by warm sunshine, fresh air, clover meadows, and mountains. Serving as a point of contrast between industrialized city life and soul-nourishing country life, the river points out the negative impact industrialization has on nature and humankind alike.

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The River Symbol Timeline in Life in the Iron Mills

The timeline below shows where the symbol The River 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
Looking out the window, the narrator points out how the river is also dirty and sluggish. When the narrator was young, he or she used to... (full context)
The City vs. The Country Theme Icon
Coping and Relief Theme Icon
The narrator notes that the slimy, brown river knows that once it stretches beyond the city limits, it will find itself in the... (full context)