Why does “The Cry of the Children” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning paint men in a negative light? The poem portrays women as nurturers of these children in poverty. The poem claims that the children are “weeping sore before the bosom of their mothers” (23). Masculinity, however, is not presented in such a positive way. It is the “Father land” in which the children are weeping (line 24). The poem is directed at “O my brothers” (1). In these cases men are indifferent, both society’s men that makes up the fatherland and readers.
This could be because the men of society have the power to change the children’s situations. After all, the men are the captains of industry. Men hold the power to vote and reform the system in favor of these children. Not a single father is mentioned in this poem; perhaps she calls the men of society to be the fathers to these fatherless children by means of practical aid.
Or maybe the male figure in the fathers place reminds us of God to whom the children call saying, “our Father” (115). These children are “orphans of the earthly love and heavenly” (147). Browning could be claiming that the situation of the children is not simply a physical poverty, but a spiritual lack due to neglect from society to show God’s love to these children. Maybe it is not only physical need that society owes these children, but the spiritual love of God. After all, “For God’s possible is taught by His world’s loving” (135).
“Anthology of British Literature (3rd set of readings)” English 3351 course handout. Baylor University. Spring 2012.