Compare and contrast the attitude to prison conditions in the 19th century between ”The Convict” by William Wordsworth and ‘The Dungeon’ by Samuel Coleridge. In this essay I will compare the two poems’ The Convict’ by William Wordsworth and ‘The Dungeon’ by Samuel Coleridge. I will be talking about the background between these two poems and describe the conditions of prisons during the 18th century. Then I will look at their writing styles, their poem’s structure and their use of language.
With comparing their different writing styles, I will find out the main message conveyed by each writer.
In the 18th to the 19th century, there were many countries under control by a ruler and sometimes the law was not adequate for every single citizen. The torpidity and unfairness of the justice system, which had already destroyed many people’s lives, were very common during this period. A small crime could mean that people were jailed for a long time, if the judge wanted them to be.
The conditions inside prisons during the 18th to the 19th were not as good as today’s prisons conditions, which supply medical care and plenty of facilities for prisoners.
Prisons in the 18th and early 19th century had absolutely nothing apart from a surrounding huge wall and maybe some guards to maintain the peace inside these prisons. However, these prisoners would never get enough to eat or get any news from the outside world; they had already been separated from the world and being treated with whipping and beating.
Although they were not satisfied with their situation, they had no say because the system was under control of the government.
And ‘The Convict’ by William Wordsworth and ‘The Dungeon’ by Samuel Coleridge were written during this period. Line 2 of ‘The Dungeon’, ”this is the process of our love and wisdom” is an ironic comment. Love and wisdom are positive words, but the writer uses love and wisdom to describe a brother when they put this fellow being, who had committed a crime, into the dungeon. This is an irony inside this sentence because the writer uses love and wisdom instead of hate and sterility. . 2
Irony is also used in ‘The Convict’, in line 9 ‘the thick-ribbed walls that o’ershadow the gate’ The ‘thick-ribbed walls’ hints that there was no freedom for the prisoners and it also indicates that the speaker observed the shape of the prison and uses the observation as a proof for his statement. The question in line 5 in ‘The Dungeon’ is this the only cure? ‘ is a rhetorical question. The writer does not want the reader to answer this question. He only wants the reader to think about alternative ways to treat these people who carry guilt. The speaker hints that there should be better treatment to these prisoners.
‘The Convict’ uses a rhetorical question as well as to emphasise the writer’s thoughts about the inhuman being treatment within these prisons. In line 5 ‘And must we then part from a dwelling so fair? ‘ William Wordsworth indicates that he disagrees with separating these prisoners far away from their homes; he thinks that it is irrational to put them into such a poor condition. Sensory description is used in line 7 in ‘The dungeon’, when the writer says’ by ignorance and parching poverty’. The writer uses ‘parching’ to describe the common poverty condition in 18th century.
Parching means very hot and ‘parching poverty’ means that the condition of poverty is common. Parching combines with poverty shows us that the writer was very care about this poverty situation. ‘The Convict’ does not seem to be using as much sensory language as ‘The dungeon’. But unlike ‘The dungeon’, ‘The Convict’ prefers to use imagery to let the readers to imagine the scene rather than using personal opinion to convince the readers. For example, in the first sentence of the third stanza, the writer uses imagery to describe the view of the outside prison.