The Life of a Workhouse Girl

Judge’s Comments – WINNER

There was some very evocative vocabulary and descriptions in this piece. I particularly liked the use of ‘scrumptious’ and the idea that the kitchen of the workhouse was where ‘all the commotion and noise are born’. I thought the final paragraph was particularly powerful, and cleverly hinted at a link between this historical story and the strife still experienced by many children in the world today.

The Life of a Workhouse Girl

By Sandali Dharmarathna

Misfortune falls upon me. I have nowhere to be. No connections to my past. No one who loves me. I am just a lonely orphan that lives in a horrible workhouse.

Why must my life be so hard? What is life like outside these stone walls? What is life like when you are free to do as you please when you please?

I want to see the world – go on adventures – not stay here, in this England workhouse, in misery and loathsome self-pity. I want to feel the warmness of the radiant sun on my skin. I want to eat succulent, scrumptious food. Someday, I would be able to uplift my melancholy, pensive state of life. Wherever I go, it is like a living dungeon; time seems to stand still in this state – not moving, stuck in this meaningless rut.

Toiling day and night, infinitely just for some scraps of food. I work in the kitchen of the workhouse: where all the commotion and noise are born. The head cook shows a stench of cruelty to the others yet not to me. I have always wondered why. It seems as though even in such an unequal world; I am unknowingly saved for reasons I cannot begin to fathom. I am one of many homeless orphan children who work to the core. Children should have the right to have a little fun in life, however my unavoidable lack of a home and family lead me to be dragged back here every time I try to escape.

The head matron once told me that I was found on the doorstep of the workhouse; I wonder why my parents left me here. Was I that much of a trouble? Seldomly, I pretend they did it for the best; to keep me safe.

When outside of our posts, most of us are treated badly while some of us are treated with a bit of respect. Of-course I am treated badly by the matron. According to the workhouse master, I am a ruffian and a brute. Now I am used to the agonising pain as it soars through my veins when they use the long, slick whip on me. I am accustomed to the bubbling anger inside of my chest, without any way to complain. I am used to the hearing deathly screams of horror when I fall into fitful sleep, now it even represents a scary lullaby.

Grief, gloom and woe is the full package: once one feeling manifests, you succumb to the others. Where is equality displayed in this world? No one should be treated differently – yet each horizon tells the story of another person at the mercy of another’s rage.

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