Essay about Slavery in the Pre-Twentieth Century Society

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Slavery in the Pre-Twentieth 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 …show more content…

In the next two verses the paradox 'He is not hers' is repeated to emphasise the fact that, although she gave birth to him, he belongs to whoever is willing to pay for him. The wreath mentioned is a symbol of death - to her this parting is like the death of her only child. The next two stanzas explain how much this child means to his mother - the joy she felt when he was born. The poet uses the metaphor of a fountain gushing over a desert to portray how meaningless her life had been before his birth. When he was born she had some hope for the future and this is being taken away from her so tragically. Verse eight ends on a pleading tone. 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

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