The Cry of the Children Summary

Summary (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

The Cry of the Children is representative not only of Barrett Browning’s political poetry but also of her work in general. It contains themes and images that can be found throughout her work. The use of language, meter, and rhyme in the poem demonstrates her innovative poetics and singular style.

It is problematic that Barrett Browning actually heard the cry of the children whom she so eloquently laments in her poem. She wrote The Cry of the Children after reading a report on the employment of children in mines and manufactories. A master of language, she evokes its emotional power to engender a response of outrage in her readers. The poem is intentionally didactic, political in purpose as well as subject matter. It is an expression of her own alienation and abhorrence of industrial society seen through the eyes and feelings of factory children, represented as innocence betrayed and used by political and economic interests for selfish purposes.

Throughout the poem, demonic images of a Factory Hell are contrasted with the Heaven of the English countryside, the inferno of industrialism with the bliss of a land-based society. The children are implored to leave the mine and city for the serenity of meadow and country. The grinding, droning mechanism of industrial society destroys the promise and hope of human life. Barrett Browning was concerned with the fate of a society that exploited human life for profit, and she ends her...

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The Cry of the Children Bibliography (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Avery, Simon, and Rebecca Stott. Elizabeth Barrett Browning. New York: Longman, 2003.

Besier, Rudolf. The Barretts of Wimpole Street: A Comedy in Five Acts. Boston: Little, Brown, 1930.

Bloom, Harold, ed. Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2002.

Cooper, Helen. Elizabeth Barrett Browning: Woman and Artist. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1988.

David, Deirdre. Intellectual Women and Victorian Patriarchy. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1987.

Garrett, Martin, ed. Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning: Interviews and Recollections. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000.

Gilbert, Sandra M., and Susan Gubar. The Madwoman in the Attic. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1984.

Leighton, Angela. Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Edited by Sue Roe. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986.

Mermin, Dorothy. Elizabeth Barrett Browning: The Origins of a New Poetry. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989.

Pollock, Mary Sanders. Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning: A Creative Partnership. Burlington, Vt.: Ashgate, 2003.

Radley, Virginia I. Elizabeth Barrett Browning. New York: Twayne, 1972.