Aspects of child labor in Tonna's Helen Fleetwood

Galia Benziman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article explores the unique role of Charlotte Elizabeth Tonna's Helen Fleetwood (1841), one of the first social-problem novels, in shaping the concerns and strategies of the genre. Writing at a moment of cultural change in the attitude toward children, Tonna's Blakean vision of child labor as diabolical allows her to offer a daring critique of social institutions. Yet her political vision is inconsistent: although she redeems the working-class child's point of view and rehumanizes this figure, Tonna's staging of child labor as originating in a metaphysical, divine plan leads her to construct children's suffering as a justifiable and even desirable ethos.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)783-801
Number of pages19
JournalSEL - Studies in English Literature
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2011


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