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Child Labour in British Literature

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Submitted By kostrzewskak
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Child labour in British Literature

Child labour is very popular topic and motif in British Literature. Many famous authors base their novels on this term. Industrialisation led to a dramatic increase in child labour. Children were working in factories and mines what was very exhausted and dangerous. Child labour was not an invention of the Industrial Revolution. Poor children have always started work as soon as their parents could find employment for them. But in much of pre-industrial Britain, there simply was not very much work available for children. This changed with industrialisation. The new factories and mines were hungry for workers and required the execution of simple tasks that could easily be performed by children. The result was a surge in child labour – presenting a new kind of problem that Victorian society had to tackle. Research has shown that the average age at which children started work in early 19th- century Britain was 10 years old, but that this varied widely between regions. In industrial areas, children started work on average at eight and a half years old. Most of these young workers entered the factories as piecers, standing at the spinning machines repairing breaks in the thread. A few started as scavengers, crawling beneath the machinery to clear it of dirt, dust or anything else that might disturb the mechanism. In the mines, children usually started by minding the trap doors, picking out coals at the pit mouth, or by carrying picks for the miners.
Charles Dickens, William Blake and Elizabeth Barrett Browning responses to child labour in their literary masterpieces. In his essay, I want to show the authors present the term in their works. William Blake's The Chimney Sweeper, written in 1789, tells the story of what happened to many young boys during this time period. Often, boys as young as four and five were sold for the soul purpose of cleaning chimneys because of their small size. These children were exploited and lived a meager existence that was socially acceptable at the time.
Blake voices the evils of this acceptance through point of view, symbolism, and his startling irony. Blake expresses his poem in first person, as a young chimney sweeper. This gives his poetic voice creditability because the subject of the poem is chimney sweepers. In addition, using first person creates a deeper sense of sympathy in the reader. This young boy, the poetic voice, lost his mother while “[he] was very young'; (554). Soon after the loss of his mother“[his] father sold [him] while yet [his] tongue/ Could scarcely cry ‘ ‘weep! ‘weep!‘ weep! ‘weep!’'; (554). This sympathy allows the reader to realize not only how these children lived, but also how they felt and how they were deprived of their childhood. The children, the sweepers, play in meadows and wash and shine; they become pure, regain their innocence.
Then, “naked and white”, they rise up to Heaven. The Angel tells Tom “ if he'd be a good boy, he'd have God for his father, & never want joy”, clearly referring to Heaven. Tom awakes, and returns to reality: cold, work, darkness. Yet Tom is “happy & warm”: “if all do their duty, they need not fear harm.” He has hope; perhaps ultimately the hope to die soon.
The plate Blake carved for his first Chimney Sweeper is sky-blue, with the thin shadows of little children walking up to Heaven: children whose souls are leaving for a better good. The overall tone is idealistic and hopeful, yet with an underlying taste of crude reality; more of a nuisance than a tragedy. This poem offers sharp criticism of the child labor that was common at the time. A child should be learning and playing, not working in a labor-intensive career. Dickens could foresee how child labour would gradually be a part of a social disorder and finally culminate into a social curse through centuries. He could foresee what curse evils such as „child labour‟ could bring to society. It could only lead to the degradation and indignity of humanity. He successfully portrays the sufferings of little children in 19th century
Britain. Child workers appeared in several other Dickens novels, most memorably in the form of Oliver Twist. Oliver Twist is a novel by Charles Dickens which was published in 1838.
Oliver twist appeared at Victorian era. Exploitation of child is issue in Oliver Twist. In the novel Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens describes the life in the workhouses. Oliver was born in workhouses. His mother, whose name no one knows is found on the street and dies just after
Oliver's birth. Oliver spends the first nine years of his life in a badly run home for young orphans and then is transferred to a workhouse for adults. Here Oliver and other child employ with hard considerably in factory. They are given some eat and treaded without good.
Nevertheless, workhouses council that have responsible to take care of orphan just at the moment he had doesn’t care with child. Workhouses have a good alive from money that they are accepting from government. So there are brogues ideologies which as related to class capitalist that influence by social class and economy. Another example is Cecilia (Sissy) Jupe in Hard Times is abandoned by her father, mother and all her family and lives in a care home with her nasty brother-in-law Peter, a circus performer. Grad grind offers Sissy the chance to study at his school and to come and live at Stone Lodge with the Grad grind children and dog daisy. At first she is the outsider in this household and is considered to be stupid, because she is guided by feelings of love, and has an emotional, fanciful nature. Later, however, her values are recognized by Grad grindand Loo. When Mrs. Grad grinddies she largely takes over the role of mothering the younger Gradgrind children. Elizabeth Barrett Browning uses a theme of politics along with rich imagery to draw her readers into the plight of the children forced into working in the mines and factories of industrial England. She writes to expose the horrific conditions under which these children are forced to live and die. The poem is a detailed description of the thoughts and wishes of the children paired with an outsider’s pleas with the public to change the lives of the children.
Browning's poem is presented by a quote from Medea, a reek mythological tragedy: “Alas, my children, why do you look at me?” Medea is a priestess who, in revenge for her husband's betrayal in becoming engaged to another woman, kills her husband's lover and the two children he had with Medea. Her children look at her as she is about to take their lives; she then blames her husband for their deaths; accusing him of outrage and adultery. The look
Medea's children is the cry of Browning's children as they “look up with their pale and sunken faces ”at the rest of society, while parents sell their children to cheap labour and blame others for their suffering and need. The Cry of the Children remains one of her strongest cries for change. A rapidly transforming system that was in need of revising, Browning used her art to help create laws that would eventually ban child labour from England forever. In conclusion, child labour is one of the most known and used theme in British
Literature. The authors by their masterpieces tried to ban forcing children to work. In Charles
Dickens, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and William Blake’s text this is very popular topic.
They are writing about how destroying is child labor; it causes problems in societies.
Thousands of children were abused during the time lapse running from the writing of each of these poets' work; however, thanks to the people's cry and the artists' word, decisive laws were established against the exploitation of children and women, Unions of workers were developed and working rights were secured across the world.

Klaudia Kostrzewska


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