chapter  2
34 Pages

“Animals and Children”: Savages, Innocents, and Cruelty

This chapter examines narratives that explore the relationship between the endangerment and abuse of children and financial gain. The representations of parental love and of children endangered by commerce seen in these texts provide a crucial framework for understanding the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children's (NSPCC) own construction of children endangered by commerce. Anti-child labor activists were undoubtedly moved by reports of harsh conditions in which children worked in the factories, but there is evidence to suggest that children were not significantly more endangered by this labour than they were by domestic and cottage-industry work. The government blue books on children's employment provided basis for many literary interventions on behalf of laboring child, including works by writers such as Caroline Norton, Frances Trollope, and Charlotte Elizabeth Tonna. By focusing upon the effects of commerce upon familial relationships, these writers effectively subsume the problem of necessity and starvation within a discourse of domestic ideology.