Role of the Speaker and imagery in “Life in the Iron-Mills”
The main focus of my first blog is to show the role of the speaker and imagery in Davis’s short story. My response to Marcuse builds on these literary technologies, using my personal example juxtaposed to the situation of the Welsh puddlers in Davis’s short story.
So apparently “Life in the Iron-Mills” is an indirect attack on the social effects of the industrial revolution. Her use of heart wrenching, visually painful descriptions demanded my attention from the first sentence. Unfortunately the speaker thinks very little of me (the reader) but this predisposed animosity seems to aid Rebecca’s implicit argument/attack on capital sympathizers such as myself.
The speaker plays a major role in our understanding of the text because he/she immediately labels the reader as an unsympathetic bigot who’s views on those less fortunate rivals that of slave owners during their campaign for the “necessary evil”. Intriguingly enough, the speaker seems to possess knowledge of events, emotions, and desires not directly available to those of us who are mortal but yet is still human. The speaker’s omniscience gives the reader insight to the hopes and desires of the struggling labor class, specifically appealing to our emotions. I believe the speaker directly voices Rebecca Harding Davis’s opinion of those who decide to read her short story. The speaker’s knowledge and inherent dislike for the reader is also a strategic move by Davis to let the reader know her specific audience for this particular story.
Thick imagery of the physical surroundings and the emotional/spiritual motivations of the characters help to enhance the tragedy of the situation. Taken place in about the 1860s during the civil war, Davis takes the reader immediately into a town not much different from the place Dante described in his inferno. Her description of the puddle workers stooping over the boiling cauldrons with “skin and muscle and flesh begrimed with smoke and ashes” made me think of hell on earth, where Disney world is its antithesis. Her emphasis on the jargon/colloquialisms of the laboring class as opposed to the Doctor and Mitchell effectively adds to her implication (of what we think) is a difference in their humanity. This is where I pick my quarrel.
Beggars can’t be choosers. The speaker says we shouldn’t be quick to judge the immoralities of the workers and their apparent lack of responsibility and drunkenness because we sit on a seat higher than them. We all have choices and whether we chose to let opposition or the illusion of opposition hold us back is our decision. When I read Marcuse’s quote I thought of my dad who came all the way from Nigeria, leaving his wife, kids, and everything he knew in the 80s to come to America to go to school for Pharmacy on a special visa he labored for years to get. For years he worked to be able to take his children and his wife away from a place that doesn’t even own its own natural resources so we could reap the benefits of a place with so much opportunity for advancement. While Marcuse claims the “advanced industrial civilization” has created a one dimensional man, I see my father as a living example that contradicts his claim. He says we produce and consume waste? My dad worked for Merck Medco for 17 years producing many of the drugs that help people today live happier, healthier lives. Some might say my dad only worked to help himself and his immediate family leaving his country behind, but they are wrong. To this day he still sends money home and visits my brother and sisters he’s adopted from his deceased friends paying for their schooling and giving them the same opportunities me and my sisters have.