In Life in the Iron Mills, how does the use of "light" and dark" influence the text?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The "dark" condition in which Hugh and Deborah live represents the challenges that economically depressed individuals faced in the midst of Industrialization.  Harding makes it clear that there is a note of "dark" around Hugh and Deborah and those who reside at the bottom of the capitalist enterprise see more dark than light.  The home in which they live is dark, he suggests to her that she sleep on a heap of ashes, and the cellar dwelling that encompasses their physical being and their emotional one is darkness.  Light comes in the form of the fluttering hopes of transcendence.  The korl statue attracts the visitors from a distance, at night, almost calling out to them as light.  The statue being the result of Hugh's craftsmanship, one can see it as a temporal moment of light in a perpetual state of darkness.  While he wanders the street, the light of dreams impacts Hugh, to a point where he only sees the hope that such symbolic light.  Again, one sees the presence of light in a world of darkness, something that comes crashing down on him as a reminder when he and Deborah are incarcerated.  Hugh's outstretched hands from his jail cell while he is dying is another example of where "light" in terms of the outstretched hands collides with the "dark" of the prison cell. The presence of the korl statue at the end of the story reflects how there can be light in a world of darkness.

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