The Use of “Young” in The Cry of the Children

In her poem, “The Cry of the Children,” Elizabeth Barrett Browning repeatedly emphasizes the youth of the children. What purpose does this serve? Aren’t all children already assumed to be young? From a more technical point of view, a “child” is anyone under the age of eighteen. In using the phrase, “young children,” Browning may be simply indicating that her subject matter is under the age of ten rather than an adolescent nearing adulthood. Browning’s repeated use of the adjective “young” to describe the children could also serve to further highlight the discrepancy between their age and their attitude towards life. Even though it is generally understood that children are young by virtue of being children, Browning may be using repetition to insure that her audience fully comprehends how young the poem’s subjects are to be so downtrodden and depressed.In continually emphasizing the young age of the poem’s subjects, Browning could be trying remind her readers of the connotations generally associated with youth–vitality, innocence, eagerness, and optimism–and then point out how many of these qualities the children lack. Use of the word “young” could also serve as a contrast to the word “old,” which is also used repeatedly throughout the poem.

16 thoughts on “The Use of “Young” in The Cry of the Children

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  2. My research indicates that Elizabeth Barrett was not the original author of this poem, “The Cry of the Children.” Rather, it–and four others plagiarized by Barrett–were written by Mathew Franklin Whittier, younger brother of American Quaker poet John Greenleaf Whittier. M.F. Whittier had, presumably, sent them to her for her perusal and feedback, but instead she published them as her own.

    I have posted a paper, “Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Plagiarism of Mathew Franklin Whittier,” which can be viewed on at the following link:

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