Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Henry Mayhew (1812-1887)_Watercress Girl

Like William Godwin, Henry Mayhew was one of those authors who wrote about their interviews with people; one thing that I like about those authors is that they did not only assume what was going thru people mind, they asked them and then related it.
In the Watercress Girl, Mayhew related his exchange with an eight years old working girl; who had lost all concept of being a child and had became a woman. “There was something cruelly pathetic in hearing this infant, so young that her future had scarcely formed themselves, talking of the bitterest struggles of life, with the calm earnestness of one who had endured them all” (P1838) I agree with the author it is pathetic for a eight years old to have this much experience in life as did this little girl (yes little girl is what we call an eight years old now a days). This girl had no way of playing as her age would require, she did not even know if parks existed, where they were or if they would let her go there just to look. “I go about the streets with water creases, crying, ‘four bunches for a penny, water creases’ I am just eight years old, that’s all and I’ve a big sister and a brother…On and off, I’ve been near a twelve month in the streets” (P1839) In order to survive and help her family this little girl sold water creases for pennies. “I used to go to school, but it’s such a long time ago; and mother took me away because the master whacked me…I didn’t like him at all…he hit me three times ever so hard, across the face with his cane, and made me go dancing down the stairs; and when mother saw the marks on my cheek she went to blow him up but she couldn’t see him…That’s why I left school” (P1839) This passage remind me about what Charles Dickens said about the rich being mad and nervous; because of the fact that the teacher abuse a child who was probably four or five at the time and then ran when the mother revolted and came to get him. It is pathetic that this teacher made a child that age dance in front of him in order to make him happy; we must also understand from this passage that poor had no way of going to school considering this situation. “ I don’t have dinner. Mother gives me two slices of bread and butter and a cup of tea for breakfast, and then I got till tea, and has the same. We has meat of a Sunday, and of course, I should like to have it everyday…I never has no sweet stuff; I never buy none, I don’t like it” (P1840) This girl was starved everyday by having only four slices of bread total a day; it made sense that the life expectancy in Manchester during the Industrialism was only twenty years of age for poor, poor were oppressed, starved and used to an inexplicable degree.
Having lived here in America for eight years,I had forgotten that this injustice could happen to even young people; however as I remember where I am coming from, Africa, I realized that it could exist and still exist back home. While reading the Industrialism, it seemed like none of the revolutions that happen in England, USA, France…had any impacts on changing this inequality between human beings; however, since changes did occur, I must say that those authors that I read so far had a lot of impacts on changes in the right direction...we are not there yet


Wanda said...

Kassia - I like how you use quotes from the reading and explain how you feel about each one. We had a different take on this piece. I agree that the little girl didn't have a childhood, but was impressed with her ability to not sound whiny and be looking for pity. Rather, she described her life matter of fact...much like she lives her life each day. Doing what is required to ensure her survival. While I certainly agree, that it is natural and normal to feel sorry for her, I felt that she wouldn't want our pity...but rather our respect, at her strength.

Kassia Barry said...

Wanda, I agree with you thelittle girl deserve our respect and was very impressing; however I was more focus into showing the infairness of what society forced her to do. I also think that the author wanted his readers to see that.

Jonathan.Glance said...


Good exploration of Mayhew's interview with the Watercress girl. I like the way you quote and discuss passages and engage with the events and text. Good use of your experiences here, too.