Dear future student: I believe “The Cry of the Children” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning to be a great work because of how it made me feel and its pursuit of societal impact. Firstly, as someone who hates poems, I often get lost in my own thoughts while reading them, but this however kept me engaged throughout the reading and even made me want to go back and read it over just to make sure I didn’t miss anything. I also feel I liked this poem more than the others because it is simpler and easier to understand, which is important for the poem as it was supposed to reach out to the masses to inspire change. In the first few stanzas, she grabs the reader’s attention by creating vivid imagery such as, “They are leaning their young heads against their mothers, And that cannot stop their tears.” That line itself stood out to me because as a child if something bothered you, you would go to your mother but these children have so much sorrow there is no true solution besides death, which is further pointed out by this line, “It is good when it happens,’ say the children, “That we die before our time.” These examples show the hopelessness of their situation and the fact that we are talking about children here takes it to another level.
I feel this poem best helps the reader relate and empathize with these children, giving readers a glimpse into the terrible lives of these working children and the disparity in thinking about childhood in general. I also have a personal connection with this poem because of my Asian background and growing up in India our parents put a high standard on our studies. I have heard of a few horror stories of kids being beaten with belts due to their poor test scores, some college students even resorted to suicide because in India people would have to score pretty much perfect scores to beat out the other kids in hopes to get a job. I feel lucky that I have experienced this torture from the outside, but also, much of the idea of going to school to acquire a well-paying job has stayed with me.
Best, Syed Junaid