The Victorian Era in A Curse for a Nation by EB Browning

About this essay

The Victorian Age was a period of time from 1837 to 1901. This era was called Victorian due to Queen Victoria, since it describes the events that happened during her reign; “A Curse for a Nation” by Elizabeth Barret Browning clearly portrays how this Victorian society behaved through the use of words. In this poem, the author first states the coming of an angel to ask her to write a curse toward America.

However, she mentions that she cannot curse America for their sins if her country is even worse.

Later in the poem, readers can notice how the angel tries to make her see America as evil for allowing slavery; nonetheless, the speaker believes that her country has poverty and many citizens even without shoes to wear. Besides, the speaker implies that Americans have more freedom since they are not ruled by a parliament as they are in England. Thus, the author presents the living of the Victorian society since she critiques this society due to their immorality.

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The speaker reflects this society by presenting the role of the angel, the role of women, and by presenting the reality of the country’s expansion.

Thus, in these lines readers start to notice that the angel is presented as a commander who orders the speaker to go against America. However, the speaker does not obey this commandment since she thinks that Americans possess more freedom than the one they actually have.

By knowing this, readers instantly realize that the parliament in which Victorians were living did not allow them to live as they would want, for as they can perceive, there are children whose feet are exposed to pain; this is an allegory to helplessness, since these people do not have any opinion regarding their life.

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Furthermore, the angel is an allegory of the government for it continues to command the speaker what to do. Besides, the speaker represents the opposition toward all misleading decision that may cause the Victorians to go into a downfall.

As readers can notice, the tone of these words is resentful since the government wants to turn people against another country by showing the other country’s wickedness; however, the speaker critics that this form of government allows the leaders to receive bribes and look for their own benefit not the country’s.

On the other hand, the role of women is cast when the angel commands the speaker to write the course for “thou hast strength to see and hate” (36). This portrays the women ́s status since they were presented as the one who could reason and see what was happening. In the Victorian age, some women started to stand up to men’s rules; that is, men were accustomed to believing that women were nor more than an object who they could use. Nonetheless, some women writers started to change this myth. Also, when the speaker mentions that “a foul thing done within thy gate. ‘To curse, choose men/ For I, a woman, have only known/How the heart melts and the tears run down.’ (38-40), readers can interpret that the speaker says that she cannot comprehend what happens in society because she is a woman and only knows sorrow.

Furthermore, the angel says to the speaker: “thou write My curse to-night/ Some women weep/ and curse” (39-40). By mentioning this, the angel implies that the woman can curse better than him for she has been suffering due to men mistreatments. However, the woman shows that Victorian women are not what men think that they are.

In these lines, there is a clear reference to women ́s depiction according to men of that era. The depths of womanhood mean that women’s soul was meant to be bad for they were not considered to have the same rights than men.

Moreover, the Victorian period was also known for their expansion during these years. England expanded their frontiers to some other place in the world becoming the world’s workshop. In the poem, the speaker refers to this “Growth of Empire” as a heartless act that affects many people just for the benefit of others.

In these lines, readers can observe that the breaking of the chains means the struggles that men had when trying to get new territories. However, there is also the mention of the ones that are being attacked for it tries to put the reader into the victims ́ shoes. Thus, the Victorian period was an age in which England expanded all along many countries and turned to be the head of the world. Furthermore, in this time, there were many injustices toward those who were attacked by English people. They suffered many mistreatments and this is also reflected by the poem since it casts these problems. Besides, it also mentions that the “Growth of the Empire” consisted in the benefit of few and the injustice for millions.

In conclusion, the Victorian age was an era in which society acted according to men ́s opinion. Besides, the expansion of this nation was opening new horizons for the country, but the ones that were invaded had tremendous consequences due to the violence that they suffered from. Furthermore, the government, in this period of time, controlled everyone in this country and ordered to go against America for they allowed slavery. However, it all was displayed by the contribution to literature that authors at that time provided. One poem that fully presents these situations at that time is “A Curse for a Nation” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

In this poem, readers can find many descriptions of how this society behaved and how it was ruled. First of all, the political system is clearly reflected by the angel who commands everyone what they have to do. Half of the poem presents the angel trying to command the woman to write the curse against America. Besides, the role of women at that time is also reflected in the poem by the angel and the speaker; the angel chooses the speaker for she is a woman, and he establishes that women ́s curse is more powerful for her soul is filled by anger and wickedness due to the mistreatments received by society. On the other hand, the Victorian age ́s expansion is also cast in the poem by mentioning that with this growth, only some of the high position commanders have benefits while others such as the poor and the ones invaded do not receive any benefits. To sum up, “A Curse for a Nation” by Barrett illustrates the living of the Victorians for it presents all the details about this society.

Cite this page

The Victorian Era in A Curse for a Nation by EB Browning. (2023, Mar 20). Retrieved from

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