Vein of Iron stresses one of Glasgow’s dominant themes: that only the strong can make it through the hardships of life. As in many other Glasgow novels, including Barren Ground, the most obvious of these hardships is the lack of money. Ada Fincastle, the protagonist of Vein of Iron, has been aware of her family’s precarious financial situation from her earliest years.
Her father, however, unlike Dorinda’s father, is an educated man; indeed, his intellectual gifts have been his downfall. A Presbyterian minister, he had published a brilliant but unconventional book; as a result, he lost his church and his profession, and he had to move back to his Appalachian home, where he lives with his mother, attempting to support the household on what he can make as a schoolmaster.
Ada’s childhood is summed up by her disappointment when her father brings her a cheap doll for Christmas instead of the one with real hair on which she had set her heart. Her character is summed up by the comment made at that time—that the child has a single heart. Although that singleness of affection means that Ada will never be happy with the wrong doll, in later life it enables her to cling to her love for Ralph McBride until together they find happiness.
The love story of Ada Fincastle and Ralph McBride begins in their childhood, when they are schoolfellows. By the time Ada is twenty, she knows that she is in love with Ralph, who is then a young law student. After a quarrel, however, Ralph gets involved with another young woman; when he is found in a compromising situation, he is forced by her parents...
(The entire section is 671 words.)