[Assignment] Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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Elizabeth Barrett Browning presents ideas of exploitation and liberty in her poetry. Before this paper proceeds in examining how she achieves this goal, the terms “exploitation” and “liberty” will first be discerned. This paper will use Tilly’s (2000) definition of exploitation which “occurs when persons who control a resource a) enlist the effort of others in production of value by means of that resource, but b) exclude the others from the full value added by their effort." For the term “liberty”, this paper will utilise Dalton’s (2011) definition which says that “each individual has equal opportunity to act on their choices.” This paper will explore how effectively Elizabeth Barrett Browning presents ideas of exploitation and liberty in two of her poems, which are “The Cry of the Children” and “The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim’s Point”. The paper also considers the rhetorical devices she uses to position the reader.

The Cry of the Children

This poem was published in 1843 and pertains to the employment of children in mines and factories at the time. It was an influential poem in leading to the installation of the Factory Act of 1844. In this poem, Browning uses a lot of rhetorical questions to explore the question of the liberty of children in her era. For example, straight off the bat in stanza one, lines 1 and 2, Browning asks “Do ye hear the children weeping, O my brothers, / Ere the sorrow comes with years?” Here, we can see that Browning is questioning why the children are subject to tears when they are only children. As argued by Thane (1981), the concept of a period of childhood that comes between infancy and adulthood emerged around this time. By asking these rhetorical questions, Browning effectively interrogates the society’s notion of childhood by asking why they would allow the children to suffer when they advocate for children to live happily, as in stanza 5, where the persona tells the children to “sing out” and “laugh aloud”. Some other examples...
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