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Life in the Iron Mills: the Pain and Anguish of Hard Work

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When initially reading Life in the Iron Mills, you take note of the pain and agony that these inhabitants of the land go through in order to survive. Hugh, our character of analyzation, finds a different way of grieving instead of just drinking himself into a stupor for it. He creates life through inanimate materials which assist in getting through another day and distracting himself from the suffering his people go through. Hugh creates meaning for his life by finding beauty in something, by creating a meaning for his life, and showing what his life is to him through his art.

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There’s More to Life than Healing outlines what lot of people lack when it comes to finding meaning in their life. In a race to achieve happiness, we run through an element quickly in order to feed the need that arises from within us. Through spending money we try to crave the need that lies within us that is always reminding us of a lifestyle that we wish for: one where we can spend aimlessly and have instant gratification for any of our wants. For some this is the meaning of a happy life but this is also very out of reach for some people. Deborah and Hugh see that this is a lifestyle that would be very hard to come by and only possible by sheer luck or by opportunities presented to them. In the article, we are exposed to the very unlucky life they live and where financial autonomy is only available to the top caste who profits off of the labor of the bottom of this caste. When circumstances prove to be similar to that og Hugh’s, it is important to find alternate methods of happiness. Unfortunately for Hugh, his end was not one that is ideal for a meaningful life. To die for a petty reason is unfortunate but to die for meaning is of another story.

Hugh is show in the story to be able to sculpt, even though he takes no responsibility for it when Kirby, Clarke, and the others find it. His demeanor and comments show that he understands the korl woman more than the others but he does not take credibility. Throughout the story we hear about Hugh’s loyalty to his work which is mainly due to the demand that is put upon the mill workers. He does not eat, or misses meals often and is always crabby and hides his emotions. To find happiness or an escape in a setting like this is hard. Hugh also has an educational background but is limited to a mill worker. It is not surprising to find that he is unhappy with his life. The narrator describes that Hugh has an eye for beauty although he does not wear this on his sleeve. The way that the korl woman was described proves evident that Hugh took his time on the woman and put a lot of thought and emotion into it. What Kirby and Clarke saw in the woman was something a little different than how Hugh saw her. He saw suffering and hunger and encaptured his life within this korl to represent his emotions. It was not clear to all but it was impressive. Although Hugh was able to create something, he did find that it brought him happiness. He also looked at the woman in disgust and discernment which makes me think that he saw a little bit of himself in this woman. It is hard to be happy, and to find meaning, but once we begin to truly pity ourselves, we dig a hole for ourselves that only grown deeper the longer we live without meaning. It is cruel for the industry of the United States to create a lifestyle for so many people in order to reap the benefits for themselves. These people are stuck in such a loop of poverty, that they are unable to see what life has to offer and what joy comes in life. An elephant in the room of the story was the other fears that were present while working in the iron industry. Workers were always in fear of losing a finger or sustaining some sort of permanent damage or injury. Wages were always fluctuating so many workers never knew if they’d be able to continue paying off bills by the same time next week. Many of the hours were long and tedious, some workers even reaching up to 70 hours in their work week! It is a blessing that labor unions were created to enforce safe working conditions so that more workers don’t see the same fate that many overworked and depressed workers saw in this age of industrialization.

By creating something that represents his life Hugh was able to create meaning to his life. Deborah also was able to bring meaning to her life since she braved the walk to bring food for Hugh. “Being human always points, and is directed, to something or someone, other than oneself — be it a meaning to fulfill or another human being to encounter. The more one forgets himself — by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love — the more human he is.’ Her acts of giving and doing something for someone that was not herself gave her ease and happiness. Even after she stole the check, she gave it to Hugh because she felt he needed it. Maybe his greed in the end of thinking that he was entitled to such money in the eye’s of God was what got him the fate he received. To be unkind in a world that is already so cruel does not assist you in being in a much better state, you’re just worsening the state of what you are in. 

Overall, Hugh created himself in the woman he sculpted. He created a woman who was hungry, who did not eat. Someone who was very identical to Hugh. Hugh did not feed himself and he was perishing even while he was alive. The message of the story to me represents that everyone is worthy of being saved, even those who may work at the bottom of the bottoms. Everyone suffers, but the korl woman represents the deformities and agony that the rapid industrialization of America psed on its labor unit. She represents the state that many workers or reduced to. If one continues to treat him or herself as a machine and forget that they are human beings, they no longer know themselves for themselves. They become lost in their work and in their rapid pace of earning and spending in order to survive. Hugh began to see himself as well as the waste of iron that he was working from, which also was what the woman was made from, waste. That is why it is important to find meaning in your life so that you do not become as helpless as our past friend Hugh Wolfe.    

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