Sometimes, works of literature can have similar themes and motifs even if they were written in different times and different cultures. The poem “The Cry of the Children,” by Elizabeth Browning and the text “The Tattooer” by Tanizaki Junichiro and display raw themes of power, abuse, control, oppression, activism, identity, and the search for freedom. These themes fall under an overlying theme of consumption whether if its physically, mentally, or spiritually. Thus, these writers convey their themes in various literary devices.
Elizabeth Browning The Cry of Children
When Browning wrote her poem it was a time of dark disparities between the poor and the middle and upper classes in Europe. British people were often characterized by how hypocritical their standards and opinions were. They were imitating good ethics, but were also involved in corruption. When the Enlish government decided to look into child labor, it showed the oppression of working children. Thus, Browning decided to respond with the poem, “The Cry of the Children.” By an extensive use in symbolism, the author shows the accusation of
misery unto the children. The poem’s aim is to inform and educate her audience to no longer be silent but to be activists to prevent such inhumane acts.
The poem opens with a feeling pure grief and gloom. Thus, Browning directly plunges the reader to the sad aura of the children. For instance, “They are leaning their young heads against their mothers, / and that cannot stop their tears And that cannot stop their tears.” (Browning , 423). By comparing the children to the other youngsters, Browning characterizes the youngsters to be innocent and to play around in fields, “The young fawns are playing with the shadows” (TCC 7). Children should be happy and enjoy their youth but sadly they cannot, instead, they are “weeping bitterly” (Browning, 423). Thus, Browning blames the English government with the horrid conditions, because they don’t care about why these children are in sorrow. Strange enough, the symbolism of death is viewed as positive to the children. This is so because, when the children talk about Alice, “Little Alice died last year, her grave is shapen like a snowball in the rime… Alas, alas, the children! they are seeking Death in life, as best to have…” (Browning (424). Thus, the children say they would be better off if they would be dead. The children in the poem also go on to describe Alice’s grave: The description of the grave even illustrates that when children pass away; their bodies are not taken away for proper burial. Instead, these are being left behind and from time, as the skin gets hard, it gets covered by dust and dirt, looking like a snowball.
The children pray for help but nothing seems to be going in their way. They repeatedly question their faith as they say, ” ‘But no!’ says the children, weeping faster, ‘He is speechless as a stone…’ We look up to God, but tears have made us blind.” (Browning, 424).. The children hope that by being very religious and making sure to keep praying to God, one day God will put
an end to all of their misery. They would have faith in God, “but grief has made them unbelieving” (Browning, 425). In the second to last stanza, Browning uses effective techniques of varying pictures to show the children’s health conditions, being severely damaged by the labor and the long hours of work in the mines and factories.
Though being children, their innocent recounts as small but direct as they are, have taught them to go through grief but not gain knowledge, as it is with age that one becomes more efficient and proficient. The children feel discouraged and are aware that they wont get out of their situation even if death doesn’t free them. Their constant weeping is being ignored, which is hardly the sort of thing one would expect from a loving God.