Children Robbed of Childhood

Upon finishing Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, I thought of the poem “The Cry of the Children”, by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Browning’s poem focuses on child labor, and the children she writes of are robbed of their childhood, not unlike the way Linton is robbed of his. These injustices are due to adult agendas with one selfish purpose. In terms of child labor, that agenda is, of course, rooted in exploitation and the drive to make money and be successful at any cost. In Linton’s case, Heathcliff is the adult with the agenda; he is hungry for revenge, and Linton suffers at his hands both directly and indirectly. In class, we discussed Browning’s metaphorical use of young animals and plants, perhaps with the intent of emphasizing the innocence of the children in the poem or with the intent of juxtaposing the seemingly more peaceful life of, for example, a young fawn with the corrupted one of a child forced into long work hours, missing out on their youth. I feel that Linton could fit into this poem as well as any troubled child, because everything about his existence seems to be miserable, right down to his poor health. Even Browning’s mention of “the country of the free” reminds us that, while Linton was technically free, he was so overwhelmingly controlled by Heathcliff, even in his temporary, superficial romance with young Catherine, that he was unable to make choices of his own volition; his life was dictated by other people. The very situation into which he was born was such a terrible one, messy and already full of complicated, jealous, and hateful relationships. Much like the poem’s children are slaves to the work that has been forced upon them, Linton is slave to his previously estranged father’s manipulations.

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