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Writers during the Victorian age wrote about the detrimental effects of the Industrial Revolution, traditional gender roles, and a failing adherence to morality. In their works, Victorian writers convey social unrest, which was aggravated by unyielding industry. Female authors were often more popular than their male counterparts, and often had to hide their authorship. For instance, poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning gave a harsh critique of the Industrial Revolution, gender roles, and the decaying sense of morality during the Victorian period in her poem “The Cry of the Children.
” The subject of her poem is the plight of young children, who were forced to labor in appalling conditions of industrialization. “They are weeping in the playtime of the others / In the country of the free” (11-12). This poetry by Browning typifies the way in which cognitive dissonance for child labor, as well as other social ills, was utilized by Victorian writers to admonish the wrong doings of society.
Browning draws a close comparison between the control of men over the machine of industrialization in society and God’s plenary powers over humanity: “He is speechless as a stone / And they tell us, of His image the master / Who commands us to work on” (126-129).
Furthermore, the poem focused on this paradox by contrasting the fact that, while Britain purports to be moral and free, the actual lives of those who should be the most protected and liberated, the children, are absolutely deplorable.
Browning’s poetry also strongly exemplifies the way in which many Victorian authors incorporated, along with the criticism of industrialization, the subject of society’s faulty preconceptions of gender roles.
Browning, Elizabeth Barrett. “The Cry of the Children. ” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 7th ed. Vol. 2. Ed. M. H Abrams. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2000. 1174-1178. Riley, Brendan. ” Characteristics of Victorianism and the Departing Thereof. ” University Journal, Association of Young Journalists and Writers, http://ayjw. org/articles. php? id=725681, 2006.
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