Life in the Iron Mills

The Development of Depression’s Empowerment During the 19th Century College

The 19th century was a time of great development, especially so in the realm of knowledge and representation of disability in literature. Although physical disabilities receive the majority of the attention, mental illness does appear in many works even though it may not be openly stated or named. Despite the lack of a clearly stated mental impairment, several works feature characters who exhibit a few, or numerous, signs of depression. While this melancholy appears to limit the ailed characters—ostracizing them from normal society and labeling them as others as discussed in Rosemarie Garland-Thomson’s Extraordinary bodies: figuring physical disability in American culture and literature—it instead enables such individuals, allowing them to recognize and free themselves from the corruption of their respective societies.

The 19th century texts, Sheppard Lee, “Bartleby the Scrivener”, and “Life in the Iron Mills” all present this type of story as each possesses a character that exhibits signs of a mental illness similar to depression that leads them to losing their life. While these three texts have such similarity, they differ in the execution and descriptions of depression and demonstrate the development of the understanding of...

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