Anna Laetitita Barbauld by John Chapman (1798)
In “Washing Day”, Anna Laetitia Barbauld writes of an everyday life event, but she elevates it to a challenge of epic proportions.
She views the experience of a washing day from two different points of view: the first view is how the people surrounding the author feel towards the chores to be done that day. The second is the view from the author when she was a child, observing all that is happening. The poet wants to bring the attention on the joy and innocence of childhood, while noting at the same time the importance of the events of the day.
From line 30 to line 50, a husband comes by to ask the woman to do something else. This lines explain how the man doesn’t feel that the task of the day is important, as if his wife has plenty of time to do other things that please him.
Then the child begins to describe how she sees things. She can’t understand why the others see that day as dreadful. The child is looking for attention or delight. At this point the reader starts to see the innocence of youth. The child is thinking about floating bubbles, dreaming and clouds.
At the end of the poem, the author compares the journey of a hot air balloon with the task of a child blowing bubbles. The bubbles are toys, while the balloon is something that an adult would stress over.