Women And Children In "The Cry Of The Children" And "The Feminine Education Of Aurora Leigh"

1651 words - 7 pages

In both of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's poems, The Cry of the Children and The Feminine Education of Aurora Leigh, the role of gender is evident. Browning brings attention to the causes and nature of women's subordination to men in society in an attempt to remove that subordination through awareness. There were limited educational and employment opportunities available for women, and Browning aims to challenge these issues of gender inequality because she feels women should have equal opportunity as men. In society males are often associated with the public sphere whereas the private sphere refers to females. However, the overlap between the two spheres are women in the positions of teachers and writers. In such a position, Browning uses the slight influence she may have and writes to question the sexual roles of men and women as they are understood. She challenges the role of female teachers in Victorian England and critiques the inadequate education they are providing. The two poems differ for one focuses on the poor treatment of children in mines and factories, and the other criticizes the education of women . Nevertheless, in both pieces of literature Browning recognizes the status of women in society. In The Cry of the Children the poem focuses on the poor treatment of children, yet the role of women in Victorian England is still evident. Throughout the poem The Feminine Education of Aurora Leigh issues of gender inequality are apparent through the inadequate teachings and the repressed attitude of Aurora Leigh's aunt.

In the poem, The Cry of the Children Browning explores the labour of children in mines and factories. The poem is written in response to the child abuse constituted from labour, yet the notion of gender inequality is cleverly addressed throughout the poem. The role of gender is introduced immediately when the poet asks, "Do ye hear the children weeping, O my brothers"(1). The poet addresses only males demonstrating the male dominated society in which the poem is written. The intentions of the poet are to bring awareness to the cruel treatment of children, and in hopes of doing so she addresses those who are in positions of authority; presumably males. The role of the mother in the poem exemplifies the differences between the roles of females and males in society. The children are seeking comfort and "are leaning their young heads against their mothers/ And that cannot stop their tears"(3-4). Rather than approaching their fathers, the children automatically run to their nurturing mothers when they need comfort for females are associated with the private sphere of society. In the poem Browning suggests that even the comfort of a mother is not enough to surpass the merciless treatment of children for the role of females in society is not valued in comparison to the authoritative role of males.

The children in the poem do not demonstrate determination to better themselves for they see no purpose in continuing in...

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