Thesis Statement Child Labor Industrial Revolution

Historical Analysis - Planning a Thesis Statement

My thesis evolution
My thesis went through many changes during the drafting process. During my first attempt, I failed to state anything new or arguable. Instead, I simply summarized the poem. While that is a common mistake, it can be discouraging.
 
My first attempt introduction and thesis paragraphs
          In George Claude Lorimer’s book, Studies in Social Life: A Review of the Principles, Practices, and Problems of Society, he lashes out at Elizabeth Barrett Browning regarding her poem, “The Cry of the Children,” a response to the child labor situation in England during the 1840s. Lorimer claims Barrett Browning’s gift of writing, bestowed on her by God, constitutes a responsibility to “guide [people] in the way of righteousness” (452). Though “The Cry of the Children” was considered one of the most impactful literary responses to the plight of child workers, Lorimer criticized her for focusing solely on children, stating, “As the young are more plastic and pliable than the old, she is specially bound, while not neglecting the latter, to bestow most of her care on the former” (453).
          “The Cry of the Children,” written in direct response to a parliamentary report published by the Children’s Employment Commission in 1842, was only the most popular early installment of her crusade for the impoverished and weary, not only in England but all over the world (Avery). Therefore, it was neither insensitivity nor failure to use her talent in a righteous manner that inspired Barrett Browning to bring the needs of the children to the forefront in “The Cry of the Children.” Barrett Browning offers sufficient evidence within “The Cry of the Children” to support her claims that not only was the need for the improvement of child welfare an urgent matter, but the children’s suffering was much greater and caused more lasting harm than that of the adults. 
For my second attempt, I latched onto Lorimer's quote concerning the difference between the young and old, and I dug for any possible connection between the treatment of the children and of the adults of the working class during the Industrial Revolution. 

My second attempt introductions and thesis paragraphs
          In George Claude Lorimer’s book, Studies in Social Life: A Review of the Principles, Practices, and Problems of Society, he lashes out at Elizabeth Barrett Browning regarding her poem, “The Cry of the Children,” a response to the child labor situation in England during the 1840s. Lorimer claims Barrett Browning’s gift of writing, bestowed on her by God, constitutes a responsibility to “guide [people] in the way of righteousness” (452). Though “The Cry of the Children” was considered one of the most impactful literary responses to the plight of child workers, Lorimer accuses her of taking the plight of the children too lightly and failing to use her abilities to benefit the needy. Regarding her poem, he says, “As the young are more plastic and pliable than the old, she is specially bound, while not neglecting the latter, to bestow most of her care on the former” (453).
          He claims, “[Christ] has given her more than words; He has bestowed on her His Spirit—unless she has grieved it away—to inspire her with His compassion for the weak and wretched” (452). According to Lorimer, “It has been given to her by her Savior to speak words of cheer, and hope and faith” (452). Furthermore, he claims that, “If she can be brought to realize her opportunity and responsibility in this regard, the Education of Society will in the future be more general, more comprehensive and complete than ever in the past” (452). He ends his tirade by accusing her of false compassion, exclaiming, “Shame on her, and shame on her despicable affectation of benevolence if that is all” (452)!
          Not only are Lorimer’s claims unjust, but they are completely unfounded. “The Cry of the Children” offers plenty of evidence to support Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s true benevolence toward the child workers, and it leaves no room for argument about whether or not her compassion is genuine. According to Dr. Simon Avery, Reader in Modern Literature and Culture at the University of Westminster, “The Cry of the Children” was written in direct response to a parliamentary report published by the Children’s Employment Commission in 1842 (Avery). The poem was only the most popular early installment of her crusade for the impoverished and weary, not only in England but all over the world. Therefore, contrary to Lorimer’s accusations, Barrett Browning’s “The Cry of the Children” is full of textual evidence supporting the fact that she strove, not only to get the word out about the conditions the children were working in, but to emphasize the fact that the improvement of child welfare was an urgent matter that called for immediate action. Textual evidence also shows that Barrett Browning believed the welfare of the children to be much direr than that of the old.
Little did I know, I was not yet finished messing up. In my second draft, I made the false assumption that Lorimer's statements were accusatory, blaming Barrett Browning for failing to rally support for the children, when in reality, he was lauding her attempts to draw attention to the problem. Looking back, I'd clearly formed a false interpretation of his statements, because while under the pressure of finding something new to say, I'd simply looked for it so hard that I started to see things that weren't there. 

Once the mistake was pointed out to me by my professor, I realized I would need to go in a different direction again. There simply wasn't anything to say about the differences in the old and the young that was new or arguable. Realizing that I needed to completely shift gears and rewrite the essay yet again was tough, but it helped to keep a positive attitude. I thought of it this way-- I hadn't written two wrong essays, I'd taken two steps toward writing the right essay. 

My third attempt introduction and thesis paragraphs
            Elizabeth Barrett Browning spent much of her adult life writing political poetry in opposition to the subjection of the impoverished and oppressed. Therefore, it became such a common theme in her writing that readers and critics simply studied most of her work with a political lens and responded to it accordingly. Such is the case with her poem, “The Cry of the Children,” published in 1842. It’s considered to be one of the most impactful literary responses to the plight of child workers in Great Britain. According to Dr. Simon Avery, Reader in Modern Literature and Culture at the University of Westminster, “The Cry of the Children” was written in direct response to a parliamentary report on child labor published by the Children’s Employment Commission in 1842 (Avery). The poem is widely recognized as an impressive and rousing response to the oppression and abuse faced by the child workers, and critics and readers over the years have generally regarded the poem to be strictly political in nature, the assumed targets of Barrett Browning’s admonishments being the factory owners and political leaders.    
            However, by taking a closer look at the history of the Church of England in the 1840s, Barrett Browning’s deeply-rooted religious convictions, and the substantial role her faith played in shaping her worldviews and writing, it comes as no surprise that a more in-depth reading of “The Cry of the Children,” paying special attention to the religious connotations, reveals many allusions to religion within the text, specifically heaven and hell, and even goes as far to issue a direct plea to the Church to step in and save the children from the hell in which they were trapped. Furthermore, I contend that Barrett Browning used “The Cry of the Children” as a tool to cast accusations, calling attention to the corruption of the Church and its failure to offer sanctuary and salvation to the innocent children who’d been swallowed whole by industry and greed.  
This attempt was much closer to something that could actually work. However, the thesis needed to be tightened up and more specific. A thesis statement that's too broad is impossible to fully back up in the course of one essay, and the important message is often lost in the vast amount of information you're attempting to convey. 

My second draft of my third attempt introduction and thesis paragraph
            Elizabeth Barrett Browning spent much of her adult life writing political poetry in opposition to the subjection of the impoverished and oppressed. It was such a common theme in her writing that readers and critics became accustomed to studying her work through a political lens. However, an important influence to her writing that critics often overlook is her dedication to faith. Barrett Browning’s spiritual devoutness can be traced back to her childhood. Ranen Omer chronicles her religious upbringing in his article, “Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Apocalypse: The Unraveling of Poetic Autonomy,” where he says she grew up in an intensely Evangelical atmosphere. Citing evidence from an unpublished memoir and her letters, Omer claims that Barrett Browning read the Bible daily and considered all great poetry to be religious in nature (103). In one of the letters, Barrett Browning says, “We want the sense of the saturation of Christ's blood upon the souls of our poets because it is only ‘the Blood’ which heals and saves” (109). In another letter to Mary Russell Mitford, Barrett Browning says, “Human interest is necessary to poetical interest and religious interest is necessary to perfect the human… Christ’s religion is essentially poetry—poetry glorified.” She goes on to say, “The heavens and the earth grant the same vocation to both mother and poet: namely, to carry out the most necessary work of developing the human soul” (Taylor 153). Clearly, she acknowledges a dependence upon religion to guide her writing for the express purpose of developing and influencing other human souls.
            Nevertheless, literary critics have mostly ignored or undervalued the impact her religious passions had on her writing. Omer observes that critics “tend to ignore her Christianity almost entirely. This bifurcated reading overlooks important traces of religious anxiety that may seriously compromise the autonomy of her art for a contemporary criticism that has become radically secular and eager to impose its own ideology on the text” (99). He also contends that, “When one approaches a poet for whom religious redemption and the afterlife seem to be the ultimate liberation, a sensitivity and open attention to the complexity of religious desire may be as essential for one's critical reading as any theoretical orientation” (121).
            Likewise, Linda Shires argues against critics who portrayed Barrett Browning solely as a poet of feminist political commentary. In one specific example, Shires cites editor, William Makepeace Thackeray, for responding to the submission of Barrett Browning’s poem, “Lord Walter’s Wife,” by claiming it was unfit for the female and young reading audience. He attempted to appeal to her nature as wife and a mother, suggesting she write poems that reflect who she is as a woman (331). But as Joyce Zonana explains in her review of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Spiritual Progress: Face to Face with God by Linda M. Lewis, “The Elizabeth Barrett Browning who has her protagonist at the end of Aurora Leigh proclaim that ‘HE (Christ) shall make all new’ is not the ambivalently woman-centered poet some of us have sought to make her” (116). The failure of editors like Thackeray as well as critics to recognize her ability to write anything more substantial than feminine morality poems explains how the social and political analysis of her poetry was widely misread until the 1850s and, in some cases, is still misconstrued today. Zonana claims, “Barrett Browning was more concerned with issues of spirituality than of gender; she… saw herself primarily as a spiritual teacher or prophet, not as a feminist role-model” (116). However, critics continue to pay more attention to the personal and aesthetic characteristics of her writing, cheapening it by the assumption that her writing was a result of her pain and isolation, and later in response to her joyous romance. Shire states, “Barrett Browning’s politics fell victim in reviews to the essentialism of the discourses of female disease and romance” (333).
            One of Barrett Browning’s poems that has been widely considered over the years as a social and political poem but should be read religiously is “The Cry of the Children,” published in 1842. According to Dr. Simon Avery, Reader in Modern Literature and Culture at the University of Westminster, “The Cry of the Children” was written in response to a parliamentary report on child labor published by the Children’s Employment Commission in 1842. Widely recognized as an impressive and rousing response to the oppression and abuse faced by child workers, critics and readers over the years have labeled the poem strictly political in nature, the assumed targets of Barrett Browning’s admonishments being the factory owners and political leaders. However, I contend that Barrett Browning’s “The Cry of the Children” is actually a critique on the leaders of the Church of England for allowing their material focus to eclipse their spiritual interest, and their status obsession to pull their focus away from others and onto themselves, preventing them from fulfilling their responsibilities to provide sanctuary and salvation to the children who were swallowed whole by the same industrial expansion the Church profited from.
Finally, I'd hit my stride. Though I did end up rewriting the third attempt essay three times, I'd hit my thesis statement head on. Not only was I saying that Barrett Browning was using her religion to influence her political beliefs, and not only was I arguing that she blamed the church, but I had narrowed my focus down to two specific failures that she attributed to the Church's inability to help the children.
My final thesis statement
          Certainly, “The Cry of the Children” is indeed a political poem, but it is also a critique of the leaders of the Church of England for allowing their material focus to eclipse their spiritual interest and their status obsession to pull their focus away from others and onto themselves, preventing them from fulfilling their responsibilities to provide sanctuary and salvation to the children who were swallowed whole by the same industrial expansion the Church profited from. 
Now that you’ve finally deciphered the text, it’s time to put all your hard work together into a strongly supported essay. This can seem overwhelming or daunting, but you’ve actually already accomplished the most difficult part. All that’s left is to plan your draft.

Drafting Your Thesis 
In order to begin, you will need to form a working thesis statement. The thesis statement is the backbone of the analysis, and the rest of the essay should work to back up this statement. A great thesis needs to make an arguable statement about the text, so this is where you can draw from your notes, questions, and new interpretations. The thesis statement for a historical literary analysis should rely on textual and historical information to back it up.

It’s also important that your thesis statement be specific. If we were to use our Wordsworth’s “We Are Seven” example, you wouldn’t want to say, “William Wordsworth’s “We Are Seven” relates to political issues stemming from the French Revolution.” That statement is far too vague. Choose something specific and arguable. For instance, “William Wordsworth’s “We Are Seven” shows Wordsworth’s support for the ancient regime of France during the volatile time leading up to the French Revolution.” This statement is clear, arguable, and specific

It’s important to remember that your thesis may change over the course of developing your essay. This may only be your starting point, but it could also remain the same. For a literary analysis, you should always include the author and the name of the text along with your statement. (Include link to thesis statement resource page)

My Own Little Bump 
in the Road
"My first and second attempts to draft my essay were a complete disaster. During my first draft, I'd become so wrapped up in doing my research, making connections, and trying to understand the text that I didn't even realize my "arguable statement" wasn't arguable at all.The second time around, I misconstrued a quote and formed an entire argument against false information. Though it was a discouraging experience to have wasted the time and effort, I thought of it this way-- I hadn't written two wrong essays, I'd taken two steps toward writing the right essay. 
  
-Brandy Meredith

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