chapter  4
38 Pages

“Cannibalism in England”: Commerce, Consumption, and Endangered Childhood

This chapter argues that the story of the endangered child had become the story of the child as institutional subject: of the child represented and caught up within, and finding amelioration as a result of, institutions such as the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) and legislation such as the 'Children's Charter'. While stories of child peril throughout the nineteenth century might have included characters who had saved endangered children, such as Mary Brotherton, Mr. Brownlow, Valentine Blyth, and the Cheerybles, such benefactors are represented as taking on the role of parent in the absence of those able or willing to undertake that responsibility. Walter Payne's details of his interactions with parents and children throughout the narrative serve not only to elucidate the strengths of the Society's inspectorate, but also to model proper fatherhood, proper manliness, and proper working-class respectability. Payne is a model of what the NSPCC endeavors to create within the abusive home.