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

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

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"Life in the Iron Mills" is ultimately a story about the dehumanization and misery inflicted by industrialization on the working class. It is heavily descriptive, and imagery of light and darkness serves as a key to the symbolism within the book.

The darkness is ultimately tied up with industrialization. Industrial society is described in detail, with the filth and smog, the mud and smoke, which hangs over everyone residing within the town. It is described as suffocating, and one of the central symbolic motifs that runs across the story is that of small pockets of light being snuffed out by the darkness. This is an image which represents dehumanization, of how workers are ultimately chained by industrial society, denied the ability to be what they can be and what they should be.

We see this imagery surrounding the scene of the statue, where Hugh has a moment of hope, and the narrative itself says as much, that he could be a great artist. We see in this scene the longing for something more...

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