“In the neighboring furnace-buildings lay great heaps of the refuse from the ore after the pig-metal is run. Korl we call it here: a light, porous substance, of a delicate, waxen, flesh-colored tinge. Out of the blocks of this korl, Wolfe, in his off-hours from the furnace, had a habit of chipping and moulding figures,—hideous, fantastic enough, but sometimes strangely beautiful: even the mill-men saw that, while they jeered at him. It was a curious fancy in the man, almost a passion.” - Rebecca Harding Davis, Life in the Iron Mills
Life in the Iron Mills is one of the first American novels that depicts the precarious state of the impoverished working class. ‘Molly Wolfe’ is a member of this class working 12 hours a day, six days a week to earn a living. Because of his condition, he cannot develop his innate artistic talent. His cousin, Deborah tries to help him but the consequences are devastating.
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