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Caroline Norton's Motherhood

Page history last edited by emilie 11 years, 3 months ago




Caroline Norton: A Message of Motherhood





Mother and Child



              Caroline Norton’s Defense tells the story of a woman’s unfortunate circumstances in Nineteenth Century Britain. Although Norton is a strong, self-sufficient mother who assists her husband in many ways, he tricks her, controls her money, accuses her of adultery, sues her, abuses her, and limits her access to her children. In her book, Norton draws attention to the laws that allow for this, and leave women in these situations unable to seek refuge.

            Many people at Norton’s time, and even still today, question why Norton did not leave her abusive husband and harsh circumstances. As a writer, she could generate her own income, and many of her family members offered her a place to live. As women were not allowed to divorce their husbands at this time, Norton’s only option was to flee town to escape his wrath. Instead, Norton tried to make things work with her husband, creating multiple agreements and arrangements with him. Despite Norton’s efforts, her husband was often uncooperative, making Norton’s efforts that much more important. Although they eventually separated, Norton remained in contact and close proximity, sharing financial and parental arrangements with her husband.

            Many people ask the question of why Norton stayed. By doing so, she subjected herself to terrible, dangerous abuse and constant unhappiness.  I believe that one of the main reasons Norton did not leave was for her children. Even though she was unable to see them for some time, she endured her own hardships to be near them. She did all she could to protect them from their father, who also abused and used them for his own personal endeavors. I believe this speaks to the sacrifices that mothers make for their children, and the love that binds them to do so.

            Sir George Frampton’s sculpture, Mother and Child, also portrays the love and devotion between a mother and a child. The sculpture shows a mother holding her baby, and gazing down admiring the life in her arms. The messages of Frampton’s sculpture and the sacrifices in the story of Norton both strongly illustrate the unique relationship between a mother and her children.

            I think one of these messages is the special bond between mother and child. Still today, artists create works that portray this love. I think it is interesting that we see this special relationship not only in works of art, but in stories of struggling women such as Norton. The message that Frampton was portraying in his sculpture is the same message that Norton was sending by staying involved with her abusive husband: the bond between a mother and her children is a natural love that cannot be broken. The joy and happiness that a mother and child share is a feeling that is worth all the pain one could possibly endure. The strong gaze between the mother and child in the sculpture, and the strength Norton possessed to be there for her children both symbolize the unbreakable bond of a woman and her children.

Another message that both works portray is the happiness that children bring to their mothers. In the sculpture, the mother is slightly smiling, and seems to be happy and carefree. I believe that the portrayal of feeling in the sculpture is the same feeling that Norton felt when she was with her children. She must have found much joy them in order to persevere the harsh environment she was subjected to. Looking at the sculpture, I can picture Norton, carefree and contented holding her children. For her, the moments where she was with them were worth all the struggles she experienced. They were her light in the darkness.

            I think Frampton and Norton are also portraying the obligation of a mother to safeguard and watch over her children. In the sculpture, the mother and her baby share a strong gaze, with the mother protectively watching over the baby as its guardian. To me, this implies a mother’s responsibility to protect and care for her children. I believe that Norton also felt this duty to care for her children, and she showed this through her decision to stay and her efforts to make things work with her husband. Even when she could not see her children, she opted to stay in the same town as them. She wanted to be with them to protect them from all things, but especially from their abusive, manipulative father. Norton felt this commitment so strongly that she risked her life and emotional well being to be with her children. I think this is the kind of love and commitment that Frampton was trying to show in his sculpture.

            Both Frampton’s Mother and Child and Caroline Norton’s Defense represent the bond, happiness, and commitment between a mother and her child. The emotions in the sculpture and the trials that Norton endured speak to this special relationship that only a mother and child can experience. Although Frampton may have never heard of Caroline Norton or her story, he was able to capture the strength of a mother-child love that Norton must have felt in order to brave and endure her unfortunate obstacles in order to be with and care for her children.





                 Works Cited


     Norton, Caroline. Caroline Norton's Defense. English Laws for Women in the Nineteenth Century. Chicago: Academy Chicago, 1982.




     Frampton, Sir George. Mother and Child. Accessed 15 January 2009. http://www.victorianweb.org/sculpture/frampton/5.html






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Member Name



Emilie Lewandowski Eastern Michigan University Women in Literature






     Project Completed: Winter 2009





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