Life in the Iron Mills Questions and Answers
by Rebecca Harding Davis

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In Rebecca Harding Davis's short story "Life in the Iron Mills," Doctor May asks, "Who is responsible?" How does the story answer Doctor May's question? Who or what does the story hold responsible for the situation presented in the scene?

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In Rebecca Harding Davis's short story "Life in the Iron Mills," Doctor May asks a vital question that foreshadows Deborah's theft and ensuing consequences later in the story: "Who is responsible?" Leaving the iron mill, Deborah pickpockets some money from the educated-class men who visit the mill that night. Though Hugh had imagined the money would help him build a different life for himself, Deb's theft eventually leads to their arrests; Hugh is imprisoned for 19 years and dies in jail of tuberculosis, while Deb is imprisoned for 3. While Deb blames herself for the consequences, Doctor May's question, "Who is responsible?," expresses and develops the most dominant theme in Davis's short story--social responsibility.

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