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Slavery in pre-20th century society.

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Introduction

ANDREW TOASE GCSE COURSEWORK THEME: SLAVERY IN PRE-20TH CENTURY SOCIETY This is an exploration of the portrayal of slavery in pre-20th century society, through the poetry of F.E.W.Harper (1825-1911) and T.Hood (1799-1845). I will be discussing points and ideas suggested in the poetry by Harper and Hood. These two poems portray two different aspects of slavery. The first poem, 'The Slave Mother', by Harper is about a woman imprisoned in slavery, having her only son taken away from her. This is quite a moving poem. The other poem, 'The Song of the Shirt', written by Thomas Hood focuses on the working days of a slave. He talks about the non-stop work and the poor living conditions, which shows us how badly slaves were treated. Both these poems take an anti-slavery viewpoint. Frances E. W. Harper was a black American poet who was born in 1825 to a free family at a time when most black people were still slaves. However, at an early age, she was orphaned. ...read more.

Middle

Surely God can do something to help them? Verse nine describes how the child is torn from 'her circling arms'. These words effectively show the warmth and love of their relationship which has now been destroyed - she has 'sad eyes' and he has a 'mournful face'. They are united for the last time in their shared grief. The tone of the last verse is bitter. Because she is a slave, the mother has no rights and is powerless to resist. 'Her bitter shrieks' resound through the air but there is no help for her as her heart is 'breaking in despair'. This ends the poem on a pessimistic note and it is difficult not to feel the anguish and despair of the slave mother. The next poet, Thomas Hood, was the son of a London bookseller who became a journalist and contributed to magazines such as 'Punch'. 'The Song of the Shirt' was inspired by an article which appeared in 'Punch' which highlighted the long hours and poor wages of a working-class woman. ...read more.

Conclusion

The despair of the woman is emphasised in verse ten where she says that she cannot even cry in case it would disturb her work. The last verse echoes the first one, describing the woman who is singing the 'Song of the Shirt'. The mood of this poem is also one of pessimism and despair. Both poets have used language effectively to highlight the plight of slaves and their inability to change their situations. They have both attempted to portray the sense of hopelessness that these people experience and the ignorance and thoughtlessness of the rest of humanity. Both of these poems have made me think more about the way we take other people for granted. Nowadays we imagine that slavery no longer exists, but unfortunately there are many countries in the world where people live and work in terrible conditions, in return for a pittance, to line the pockets of their rich employers. It is only through poetry such as this, that these wrongs can be highlighted and we are made to think about others. I always remember the phrase -'There, but for the grace of God, go I'. ...read more.

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