Sunday, December 2, 2007

Slow Stream of Human Life

Journal No. 13

English 48A
Dr. Scott Lankford
Author I chose: Rebecca Harding Davis

I. "I look on the slow stream of human life creeping past, night and morning, to the great mills. Masses of men with dull, besotted faces bent to the ground, sharpened here and there by pain or cunning."

II. Rebecca Harding Davis tells the story as the narrator and describes the sad stream of people constantly flowing past her window.

III. Davis is able to tell how sad the lives of these people are not only by the stained clothing soot-covered faces, but by the features of the people themselves. She sees in the angles of the features a pain and desperation that has lived there all of their lives. From birth to death, she sees that the iron-mill workers have nothing to live for beyond work and pain. In the faces of the people of the town, there are stories to be read. Sad stories, but ones that are hard to ignore when looking into the eyes of people who have lived here for so long.

Davis further describes what she perceives to be a desperate situation beyond what the "average" reader might be experiencing in their more comfortable lives: "Breathing from infancy to death an air saturated with fog and grease and soot, vileness for soul and body. What do you make of a case like that, amateur psychologist? You call it an altogether serious thing to be alive: to these men it is a drunken jest, a joke." Reading this, I felt that I was challenged to look deeper into how I really felt for the characters Davis was describing. I was forced to connect with the true level of empathy which I was feeling. Was I feeling pity or disgust? Did I judge these men and women for the lives that they "chose" to live and the climate in which they did so? I found that I was obligated to be honest with myself about how I felt. I was drawn into the story even more because of this. I connected myself to the characters in the story at a level that I might not have had I gone on and asked "Why?"


drscottie said...

20/20 Pity and disgust are indeed kissing cousins.