Davis’ references to the Christian Faith

It is clear that Davis’ life, specifically graduating from Seminary, played a vital role in “Life in the Iron Mill”. I could not help but notice the influence faith and Christianity had in Davis’ writing. Throughout the entire short story there were constant references to God, angels, Judgment Day, Hell, Heaven , Esau and his birthright, a story directly from the Christian Bible as well as the mentioning of the soul and body being separate.

To me, Wolfe’s dilemma with stealing and then being sent to prison for nineteen years is a direct parallel to the Christian belief that God judges and punishes people for their sin. I thought it was ironic that when Wolfe was struggling with his decision to stea,l that “Thou shall not steal” is one of the Ten Commandments. The story mentions that Wolfe’s, “faith was sublime”, but in that moment he made the decision to not follow his faith. Then once Wolfe is punished and imprisoned, it seems as if he is now living in Hell, as if God has judged him. This parallel between what happens in the afterlife, according to the Christian faith and what is happening to Wolfe is evident to me when the story says, “His dumb soul was alone with God in judgment” (2786) Wolfe is miserable and his life behind bars seems even more like Hell when Wolfe cries out, “ How long, O Lord? How Long?” (2786). Since he was sentenced to nineteen years, it seems like he will be in prison for an eternity, which is how long a person’s soul will be in Hell (or Heaven).

I also thought there was reference to Christianity, specifically Hell, with all the dark imagery used throughout “Life in the Iron Mill”.  With words life “alley”, “muddy”, “city of fires” and also the metaphor used to describe the men as “revengeful ghosts” illustrated the dark imagery to not only to describe Wolfe’s predicament, but life as a factory worker.

2 comments
  1. I also noticed the hints of Christianity in Davis’ writing. I wish I knew more about religion, and Christianity specifically because I really felt there were many connections. Luckily though, you were able to help. After doing a little research about the Bible, I noticed a story about Abigail mainly in the book of Samuel. She possesses similar characteristics to Deborah. She is courageous, independent, and delivers food to David. This could be, and probably is, a great stretch and may hold no significance AT ALL; however, I still feel like the Christian references hold great importance in understanding the novella in full.

  2. I’m glad to see you writing about the religious aspects of the story, Mariah. It is worth considering how schooled Hugh is, however, in religion. How often has he been to church? What sort of philosophizing does he do to justify his theft?

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