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Affects of the cycle of poverty on children in Victorian England - Research Paper Example

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There are obvious advantages of this fact, though negative effects are also present. Living and working conditions of many people could sometimes be catastrophically bad. Children were not…
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number Toby Ragg as an Illustration of Social Injustice The Victorian era is known as an age of advances in engineering and technology. There are obvious advantages of this fact, though negative effects are also present. Living and working conditions of many people could sometimes be catastrophically bad. Children were not exceptions. They often had to work hard the whole day long just in order to receive shy supper. Toby Ragg, one of the characters of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, a musical thriller by Stephen Sondheim, may be a good example. This character may illustrate how innocent children of the Victorian era became victims to the cycle of poverty, forever bound to the working class.
In the play viewers come across the topic of confrontation between working class and bourgeoisie. In order to understand the depth of these processes it is necessary to resort to Marxist criticism. Thus, Marxist approach is based on the idea that it is necessary to equate different social classes, or in other words – to empower lower class. Working class is considered to be on the bottom of the society, while the authorities are referred to as those who control all the aspects of social life. Marxist criticism refuses from such a position. According to its principles, the control over economic, financial, and cultural life should first and foremost belong to working class. Viewers may observe characters of the play attempting to rebel against social realities.
Thus, social inequality is one of the most acute and challenging issues of the Victorian era. Toby Ragg, Todd’s apprentice, and Sweeney Todd himself may be seen as representatives of the lower class, while Judge Turnip represents the ruling class. It is possible to see that lower class is morally opposed to the higher class. Thus, Judge Turnip represents evil. It is difficult to say that Toby represents goodness, though partially he does. This is just an innocent child who becomes a victim of circumstances.
Toby is too weak to resist the flow of life. His biography may illustrate this. This is an orphan, hired by Mrs. Lovett after his previous employer was murdered by Todd. Very soon the boy becomes deeply attached to Mrs. Lovett – he accepts her as his surrogate mother. Todd’s business is flourishing, which means that Toby is not hungry and has a roof over his head. A lot of children of the Victorian era could be envious with him. However, his life changes soon. Todd and Mrs. Lovett start hunting for him as he discovers their secret. Toby is shocked and astonished with atrocities Todd has committed. Cruel murder of Mrs. Lovett finally makes him insane. Toby, with his hair white of shock, slashes Todds throat in the end of the play. Thus, at first it may seem that Toby is driven by sense of justice, highly valued by Marxist critics. However, these are actually strive to avenge and insanity what make him kill Todd. Nobody knows what is going to happen to Toby next. Nothing good, probably.
In order to illustrate class inequality of the Victorian age it is necessary to mention one more character of the play, Todd’s daughter Johanna. Judge Turpin takes her as his ward and plans to make her his wife. Naturally, she rejects him. At the same time, she is given a chance for better life, at least financially. She does not have to work. Besides, she has an access to education, though most educational institutions of the Victorian era provided terrible conditions (undernutrition, cruel punishments, etc.). A lot of poor children were deprived of opportunity to study. Viewers may also see that Johanna is bored to death. That is what characterizes Victorian children of wealth – absolutely bored, always polite, and often deprived of communication with parents. Relationships in poor families were generally more loving, though children had to work hard in order to earn crust for themselves and their families. Thus, the cycle of poverty made Victorian children live lives of adult people.
Works Cited
Barbara Daniels. Poverty and Families in the Victorian Era. Hidden Lives Revealed. Web.
Blyton, Carey. Sondheims Sweeney Todd. Tempo, 149 (1984): 19-26.
Brown, Larry. Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Sondheim Notes. Retrieved on January 18, 2008.Web. Read More
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