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Life in the Iron Mills

3.34 of 5 stars 3.34  ·  rating details  ·  657 ratings  ·  45 reviews
This definitive edition reprints the text of Rebecca Harding Davis Life in the Iron Mills together with a broad selection of historical and cultural documents that open up the novella to the consideration of a range of social and cultural issues vital to Davis' nineteenth century. A general introduction providing historical and cultural background, a chronology of Davis' l ...more
Hardcover, 435 pages
Published September 15th 1997 by Bedford Books (first published 1861)
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Jan 01, 2008 Susan rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people interested in class relations, artists
Shelves: college, 2007read
I love the narrative technique used in this short story / novella. Interesting commentary on the "hunger" of the artist.

ETA: Also, the tension between realism and romanticism is great to read. And the symbolism. The symbolism is off the charts; my brain almost exploded geeking out over it.

I wrote a paper on this work about the power art has over people and the necessity for the artist to accept that, be comfortable with it, even learn to use it to his/her advantage. To prove my point I pitted H
I went into this knowing only of Davis's reputation as a "realist" writer - a word which I find repulsive and generally turns me off of any author to whom it is attached. However, while Davis's fiction certainly has the intention of "socialist-realist" writers like Upton Sinclair, the incredible evocative power of her writing puts the comparison completely to rest. This piece of fiction is crafted with such intense, powerful imagery - the hell of the iron mills, the miserable gray ash suffusing ...more
Sarah E.
I wasn't quite sure of what to make of this novella when I first picked it up for my modernist literature class. It's a rather short story, which is fine by me, not nearly as long as the books I have read for my other classes, and I was able to plug through it in one sitting. Regardless of the length of this story, I was somewhat disappointed with the story itself.

The premise is promising enough. The beginning is strong, with clipped forceful language that sets an intriguing tone. I was sucked i
Free download available at Project Gutenberg.
I never knew Rebecca Harding Davis was from Southwestern Penna., so this is a nice surprise on a few levels. I highly recommend this short stroy. It's easy to get through, somewhat surprisingly (perhaps because of the approach the author takes to telling this story). I found this story really moving. AaHarding davis uses mazing imagery and a tone that works quite well. Very interesting labor history meets short fiction. Great stuff.
I only read Life in the Iron Mills in this collection, and honestly it was incredible.

Others in my class called it boring and long and grinding. I found it fascinating.

There is something in the dreariness of Davis' words that communicates the daily grind of 19th century America. And yet her language is beautiful; striking in only the way old English - proper English - can be. And perhaps I am too much of an English major snob, but I liked the complexity of her syntax.

That being said, the pl
A fabulous and vastly ignored book.
I stumbled upon this book quite by accident. It was during my five years in a women's monastery and it happened to be on a CD I received along with a new computer I acquired for transcribing texts and scanning books. I normally would not have read something as unrelated to our life as this, but I went ahead and read it anyway, as the subject matter dealt with Welsh iron mill workers and I could hardly have resisted a book which ignited my latent, (dormant), political activist sensibilities. I we ...more
Regina Betz
If you enjoy Hawthorne's use of symbols, you'll find Davis's novella, "Life in the Iron Mills," worthwhile. The nineteenth-century plot is a seemingly simple read. However, it proves to be multi-faceted if you delve deeper into the novel; it provides heavy social, political, religious, and gender roles commentary.
Davis tactfully constructs each character; the dialogue and narration of the story are extremely powerful. The writer displays America's grotesque industralization in a manner comparabl
Lady Jane
Hugh Wolfe in “Life In The Iron Mills” inspires the most tragic pathos in anybody who can faintly relate to him. He appears to exhibit magnificent talent in the art of sculpture, but has neither time nor money to pursue this aspiration. His time is absorbed into the vacuum of the interests of the corporate monster, and his wages are hardly enough for basic necessities. Without the proper monetary resources, Wolfe is unable to chase after his dream of becoming a sculptor. When the visitors to the ...more
Life in the Iron Mills is a poignant account of what factory life was like in the middle of the nineteenth century in America. It's common to hear people beam proudly when speaking of the quick Industrial growth of the United States ignoring the inhumane and soul crushing impact that was a part of that process. The Industrial Revolution and its Robber Baron Capitalists fed on the vulnerable immigrants who could barely speak any English and who were desperate to stave off starvation.
i finished The Painted Bird and A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments on the same day while on vacation and was feeling kind of bummed, so...for some reason i read this to...cheer myself up??? apparently i used the iron-clad logic "it's short, so it must be a fun read!"

anyway. devastating. the narrator spends a little too much time hammering the point across to the reader in florid detail, but i guess that's what you had to do in the 1860s.
Surprisingly melodramatic for a text from the American Realist school, Davis's Life in the Iron-Mills is a quick read filled with Gothic grotesques and somewhat long-winded meditations on morality and class. I'd assign it in a course on American lit as a sort of wildcard text, maybe.
Mandi Locke
A depressing yet accurate depiction of life as a mill-worker during the Industrial Revolution.
A sad but beautiful story.
The three stars represent my take on Realism. Rebecca Harding Davis does a beautiful job of spitting in the reader's eye and making the reader hate this book, or at least the circumstances of this book. It is not a happy tale and the book is not meant to be enjoyed. I believe it is meant to inspire sympathy, but, to me, Davis only inspires disdain. She treats her audience as cruely as poverty treats Hugh Wolfe. She does not inspire sympathy, eventhough her cast of characters deserve it. Badly do ...more
Myckaila Leach
This novella is unlike anything i have read before. It is a very deep story that i am unsure i interpreted correctly. I found the book sad. The story describes so many things that i had not realized occurred in the past. Mrs. Davis does an amazing job painting the scene of this book and making the reader feel as her characters do. I can not say that i enjoyed reading this book because it was written in an unusual dialect, making it hard to understand also the subject matter of this story is rath ...more
Apr 10, 2015 Velvetink marked it as to-read
Becky Cantor
Had a hard time deciding what to rate this story. It has many great aspects. I appreciate the metaphor of artist as hungry. I appreciate that it's about an awkward hunchbacked woman, and a weak, unpopular artist who works at an Iron Mill. I loved the beginning, especially the clipped sentences like, "I am going to be honest. This is what I want you to do. I want you to hide your disgust..." But overall, I found it rather dull and difficult to get through. Please tell me why I'm wrong!
Demisty Bellinger
A short piece describing life in an iron town, which is full of dirty, uneducated, disenfranchised, and marginalized characters, for the two characters Hugh and Deborah Wolfe. The town is one bordering on north and south, so slaves and slavery are ofttimes brought up, often as a comparison of the life of the mill workers and others. The book is narrated by a Quaker—maybe Deborah—and is very sympathetic to factory workers.
It certainly has historical value but Rebecca's biography was far more interesting than the actual story.
Apr 02, 2015 Bettie☯ marked it as to-read
Recommended to Bettie☯ by: Laura
I really like how this story was written. After doing some research on it, I discovered that it was written during an election year. Rebecca Harding Davis say fit to mention the hard working Immigrant families in her piece and how hungry they were for a better life that would not come. All in all, the story ends with a sense of hope for the future!
Certainly doesn't surprise. There is an incredible sharpness in the opening pages of the narrative that really propelled it to a strong start, but much of this momentum is lost in what follows. RHD still does some good things down the stretch, but this gets overshadowed by the dull final pages.
This 1861 novella takes a rare inside look at factory life in the Victorian era. Its author, Rebecca Harding Davis, became a pioneering social activist. Both shocking and lyrical, 'Life in the Iron Mills' was reissued in the 1970s as the debut publication by The Feminist Press.
Nov 19, 2010 Dolly rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2010
This was an assigned reading for my Women in Literature class, and I thought, although it was very sad, that it was an interesting read based on how society and industry itself has changed and evolved through U.S. history. Well written and a very quick read.
Davis’ romantic-realism evokes the hellish atmosphere of life in the industrial mills and desperate poverty of the working class. She symbolically represents the starving humanity with the mills, and harsh disparity that separates the social class.
Both the language and the philosophy (deep emotional resonance) of this short story were extraordinary!! :D :D :D :D :D :D

It was so touching AND so beautiful (the descriptions, word choice, etc)...
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Rebecca Blaine Harding was "the eldest of five children of Richard W. and Rachel Leet (Wilson) Harding." (Langworthy 445) Her mother was known to be genteel woman. "According to family legend, Rachel's grandfather, 'Panther Jim' Wilson, had fought at Valley Forge and her grandmother had danced with Lafayette." (Bits of Gossip, 6) and her father was an Irish immigrant who came to America in search ...more
More about Rebecca Harding Davis...
Life in the Iron Mills and Other Stories Margret Howth Waiting For The Verdict Rebecca Harding Davis's Stories of the Civil War Era: Selected Writings from the Borderlands Life In The Iron Mills

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