The Cry of the Children

Implication through Contrasting Voices in “The Cry of the Children” College

Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s thirteen stanza poem, “The Cry of the Children” presents a passionate plea written in 1843 to reform child labor during the period of the First Industrial Revolution. Barrett Browning displays contrasting voices in dialogue, opening with an adult voice who questions the reader’s complacency in the unethical treatment of child workers, supported by a vast choir of pitiful children, forced to work inhumanely long hours under harsh conditions. The poet juxtaposes traditional imagery associated with childhood innocence against increasingly violent language spoken through the collective mechanized voice of child labor, punctuated by exclamatory sentences. In displaying two distinct voices, the first: an educated yet compassionate adult, and the second: a group of overworked minors, Barrett Browning galvanizes her readers as members of a nation, capable of identifying both the physical cruelty and religious immorality of child labor. While decidedly sentimental, “The Cry of the Children” is especially effective in the way it appeals to the English imagination, evoking feelings of shame and sadness through a concentrated depiction of tarnished childhood innocence, particularly evident in an analysis of the...

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