Empty heart

While there seem to have class difference and gender inequality between the bachelors and the maids, in reality, they all share empty hearts and meaningless lives. For the bachelors, even though they are living paradisial lives, their existence is isolated from the real world, and they are missing out in lives. For the maids, their dull expression reflects to their thoughtless mind, and the machines in the paper-mill have dehumanized them, similar to what happens in the Life in the Iron Mills. Therefore, the bachelors and the maids’ lives and hearts are actually paralleled with each other, despite that they are living in seemingly different lifestyles, heaven and hell.

Living in fancy lives, the bachelors, like the girls in the paper-mill, are living an isolated life from the world. Melville detail description about the bachelors’ living condition shows that their paradise is separated with the London society. He describes, “the whole care-worn world the slip, and disentangled, stand beneath the quiet cloister of the Paradise of Bachelors,” (Melville 1275). From this passage, it is obvious that the bachelors are distant to the real world, since they are indifferent, disentangled and quiet to the world. Further, because the bachelors are isolated from the society, the bachelors miss out on a part of life experience , which is to challenge themselves. As the narrator says, “Pain! Trouble!… No such thing,” (Melville 1264), there is no obstacle in the bachelors’ lives. It is only by breaking through the challenges that people can feel the sense of accomplishment for their hard works. Although the bachelors are carefree and disconnected in their lives, deep in their hearts, they are empty and are living meaningless lives.

For the girls, they are apparently living miserable lives in the paper-mill with machines that dehumanize them. The working condition is also isolated and brutal, as the interminable work keep them away from society and other thoughts. There is much evidence in the story where the girls have completely devoted themselves to their works and machines. Melville describes, “The girls did not so much seem accessory wheels to the general machinery as mere cogs to the wheels,” (Mellville 1271). From this quotation, we can infer that eventually, the girls get dehumanize and become part of the machines. When the girls are separated away from the real society, they turn into heartless machinery that live meaningless life. Both the bachelors and girls are having empty hearts and living in the border of the society without know what is the real world like, no matter how luxury or miserable their lives are.

3 comments
  1. I agree that the bachelors were just as miserable as the women working in the paper mill. The bachelors had the luxury everyone wishes to obtain, but yet they were not happy. The bachelors prove the saying that money cannot buy happiness.

    1. I don’t know, Lupe. They seemed pretty happy to me…

  2. I don’t believe Chen asserts that the men are miserable, rather that they are ambivalent towards those outside their lavished lifestyle. This sense of carelessness creates a synthetic heart for the men, a one incapable of sympathy, which I completely coincide with. So, though they are necessarily living the life fit for a king, the shear fact that they are blind to reality shows how meaningless this happiness is. Furthermore, I agree with your argument that the emptiness of heart can happen differently, one from the lack of compassion (the males) and the other from the lack of humanization (the females). Lastly, the fact that Melville refers to the girls as parts of the machine, supplements the notion of them being heartless beings.

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