Date of Award
Rebecca Harding Davis, Life in the Iron-Mills, working-class literature, revolution, reform, spontaneism
Life in the Iron-Mills (1861) by Rebecca Harding Davis is a very early example of American fiction that depicts the living and working conditions in a mill town. Although the novella advocates for workers, it does not accurately depict contemporaneous working-class culture. Davis depicts workers as isolated and helpless in the face of the forces that oppress them rather than giving voice to the workers’ movement of her time. Although Davis depicts workers in a debased state, the text’s narrator holds out hope of the “Dawn,” suggesting a revolutionary movement. Because the narrator offers no interpretation regarding how the working class might step into this light, the narrator’s proffered hope actually undermines the revolutionary potential it promises.
Collins, Thomas, "Revolution, Reform, and Class Conflict in Rebecca Harding Davis’s Life in the Iron-Mills" (2019). CUNY Academic Works.
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