The City vs. The Country
Life in the Iron Mills mainly takes place within the city limits of an unnamed Southern mill town that is based on Rebecca Harding Davis’ hometown of Wheeling, Virginia. In this town, which is meant to stand in for industrial cities in general, immigrant workers live brutal lives, as shown through a cotton-picker named Deborah and her cousin, an iron worker (“puddler”) named Hugh. Ultimately, the novella is highly critical of the city (and…read analysis of The City vs. The Country
Coping and Relief
Life in the Iron Mills details the horrible working and living conditions that pervade industrialized cities, like the unnamed city that protagonists Hugh and Deborah reside in. To cope with such hardships, residents of industrialized cities turn to substance abuse or crime to ease their pain. However, the novella asserts that such coping mechanisms don’t actually lead to relief—they only cover up the problem temporarily. Instead, relief from city life can only be found when…read analysis of Coping and Relief
Words vs. Actions
Life in the Iron Mills considers the power of positive words and actions to fix bad situations and change lives for the better. Ultimately, the novella asserts that words alone are an ineffective means for creating positive change—only the combination of positive words with positive actions has true power and authenticity.
Davis suggests that positive, encouraging words that aren’t backed by actions are empty and meaningless. Using Doctor May and the preacher as examples, the…read analysis of Words vs. Actions