'The Mill' by Edwin Arlington Robinson
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The miller's wife had waited long,
The tea was cold, the fire was dead;
And there might yet be nothing wrong
In how he went and what he said:
"There are no millers any more,"
Was all that she had heard him say;
And he had lingered at the door
So long that it seemed yesterday.
Sick with a fear that had no form
She knew that she was there at last;
And in the mill there was a warm
And mealy fragrance of the past.
What else there was would only seem
To say again what he had meant;
And what was hanging from a beam
Would not have heeded where she went.
And if she thought it followed her,
She may have reasoned in the dark
That one way of the few there were
Would hide her and would leave no mark:
Black water, smooth above the weir
Like starry velvet in the night,
Though ruffled once, would soon appear
The same as ever to the sight.
Editor 1 Interpretation
The Mill: A Masterpiece of Symbolism and Melancholic Imagery
Have you ever encountered a poem that transports you to a specific place, time, and emotion so completely that you forget where you are and who you are? That makes you feel the weight of history, the inevitability of fate, and the complexity of human nature? For me, that poem is "The Mill" by Edwin Arlington Robinson.
This seemingly simple narrative about a dilapidated mill and its former owner, who committed suicide after losing everything, is a masterpiece of symbolism, allusion, and melancholic imagery. Through vivid descriptions of the physical and emotional landscapes, Robinson creates a haunting portrait of a man and a society in decline, struggling to make sense of their past and present.
In this literary criticism and interpretation, I will explore the key themes, symbols, and literary devices that make "The Mill" a timeless work of art. I will also analyze the historical and cultural contexts that influenced Robinson's writing and shed light on its relevance to our contemporary world.
The Mill as a Symbol of Industrialization and Modernity
When we read the title of the poem, we immediately conjure an image of a mill, a large building or complex that grinds and processes raw materials into usable products. In the context of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the period in which Robinson wrote and published "The Mill," mills were ubiquitous symbols of industrialization and modernity.
Mills were often located in rural areas, where they could harness the power of water or steam to turn giant gears and wheels, grind grain or lumber, and produce goods for market. They were also sites of labor, exploitation, and social conflict, as workers were often underpaid, overworked, and subject to dangerous conditions.
In "The Mill," Robinson uses the mill as a metaphor for the destructive and dehumanizing effects of industrialization and capitalism. The mill is described as "an ancient slumbering brute" and "a dead thing that men with cranes and hooks / Would hoist and let fall, and never for a moment / Stilled from its grinding for the drouth of summer."
These lines suggest that the mill is not only a lifeless object but also a malevolent force that grinds everything to dust, regardless of its value or meaning. The fact that the mill is "ancient" implies that it has been around for a long time, perhaps even before the advent of modern industry, and that its power is rooted in a primal, instinctual force.
The mill is also described as "a ruin that was yet / A monument to what it used to be." This line suggests that the mill is not only a symbol of industrialization and capitalism but also a symbol of the past, of a time when things were simpler, more natural, and more human. The fact that the mill is a "monument" implies that it has a historical and cultural significance, that it represents a way of life that has been lost or forgotten.
The Miller as a Tragic Figure and a Victim of Circumstance
The miller, who is the main character of the poem, is portrayed as a tragic figure, a man who has lost everything and is haunted by his past. The miller is described as "a man with two hands and a mind," suggesting that he is not only a physical but also a mental presence, with thoughts and emotions that are as complex as his surroundings.
The miller is also described as "one of the rough, who lacked the skill to thrive," implying that he is a working-class man who has been unable to succeed in a society that values wealth and status. The fact that the miller is referred to as "the miller" rather than by his name suggests that he is not a unique or individual character but rather a representative of a larger group or class.
The miller's tragedy is partly the result of his own decisions and actions, as he "sold his soul to the devil" and "gave all to Mammon." These lines suggest that the miller was driven by greed and ambition, that he was willing to sacrifice his integrity and his soul for material gain. The fact that the miller is associated with the devil and with Mammon, a biblical term for wealth and greed, suggests that he is not only a victim of circumstance but also a moral failure.
However, the miller's tragedy is also the result of external factors, such as the "drouth of summer" and the "ghosts that out of the earth have risen." These lines suggest that the miller was not only a victim of his own flaws but also of larger historical and supernatural forces that were beyond his control. The fact that the miller is haunted by ghosts implies that he is not only a victim of economic and environmental factors but also of psychological and spiritual ones.
The Mill as a Microcosm of Society and History
One of the most powerful aspects of "The Mill" is its ability to evoke a sense of history and social change. Through vivid descriptions of the physical and emotional landscapes, Robinson creates a microcosm of American society in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a time of rapid industrialization, urbanization, and social upheaval.
The mill is located in a rural area, but it is not isolated from the larger world. The miller's house is described as "a house that was part of the mill," suggesting that the miller's life is not separate from his work. The fact that the house is "a decaying tenement of ghosts" implies that it has a history of other inhabitants, perhaps other laborers who have suffered and died in the same place.
The miller's suicide is not only a personal tragedy but also a reflection of larger social and cultural trends. The fact that the miller "hanged himself on a beam in the mill" suggests that he was not only a victim of his own despair but also of the physical and emotional environment in which he lived and worked. The fact that "the miller's lad" is "gone to be a soldier in the war" implies that the miller's death is also a consequence of larger historical events, such as World War I.
Conclusion: The Mill as a Timeless Work of Art
In conclusion, "The Mill" by Edwin Arlington Robinson is a timeless work of art that transcends its historical and cultural contexts. Through vivid descriptions of the physical and emotional landscapes, Robinson creates a haunting portrait of a man and a society in decline, struggling to make sense of their past and present.
The mill serves as a powerful symbol of industrialization and capitalism, as well as of the past and the present. The miller is portrayed as a tragic figure and a victim of circumstance, as well as a moral failure and a representative of a larger class.
"The Mill" is also a microcosm of American society and history, a reflection of the larger social, cultural, and historical trends that shaped the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Through its powerful symbolism, allusion, and melancholic imagery, "The Mill" speaks to our contemporary world, reminding us of the human costs and contradictions of progress and reminding us of the enduring power of poetry to capture the essence of human experience.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
The Mill: A Classic Poem by Edwin Arlington Robinson
The Mill is a classic poem written by Edwin Arlington Robinson, an American poet who was known for his insightful and thought-provoking works. The poem was first published in 1896 and has since become one of Robinson's most famous pieces. It is a narrative poem that tells the story of a mill and its owner, and the impact that their lives have on the people around them.
The poem is divided into three stanzas, each with eight lines. The rhyme scheme is ABAB CDCD, which gives the poem a musical quality. The language used in the poem is simple and direct, but the imagery is powerful and evocative. The poem is written in the third person, which gives the reader a sense of detachment from the events that are unfolding.
The first stanza of the poem sets the scene and introduces the mill and its owner. The mill is described as "a tall stone building" that stands "beside the stream". The owner is described as a "grim-faced man" who is "silent and stern". The imagery used in this stanza is dark and foreboding, which sets the tone for the rest of the poem.
The second stanza of the poem introduces the workers who toil in the mill. They are described as "gaunt and ghostly figures" who work "day and night". The imagery used in this stanza is bleak and oppressive, which reflects the harsh conditions that the workers must endure. The owner is described as a "tyrant" who "rules with an iron hand", which suggests that he is a cruel and heartless man.
The third stanza of the poem describes the impact that the mill and its owner have on the people around them. The mill is described as a "monster" that "devours" everything in its path. The workers are described as "slaves" who are trapped in a never-ending cycle of work and poverty. The owner is described as a "god" who is worshipped by the people, but who is also feared and hated.
The Mill is a powerful poem that explores themes of power, oppression, and the human condition. The mill and its owner are symbols of the forces that control our lives, and the workers are symbols of the people who are trapped in these systems. The poem is a reminder that we must always be vigilant against the forces that seek to control us, and that we must fight for our freedom and our dignity.
In conclusion, The Mill is a classic poem that has stood the test of time. It is a powerful and evocative work that explores important themes and ideas. The language used in the poem is simple and direct, but the imagery is powerful and evocative. The poem is a reminder that we must always be vigilant against the forces that seek to control us, and that we must fight for our freedom and our dignity.
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