In “The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844”, Engels provides an argument for the poor in the biggest industrial cities in England by using Romantic elements such as the sublime, emotional appeal, and human degradation brought upon by industry. We first see the sublime, though applied to technology and not to nature, being experience when Engels writes, “Here hundreds of steamships dart rapidly to and fro. All this is so magnificent and impressive that one is lost in admiration. The traveler has good reason to marvel at England’s greatness even before he steps on English soil” (1101). Here, he is using the sublime to recognize the loss of mental clarity that people experience when they’re confronted with new and impressive feats of technology. He immediately attacks this loss of mental ability in the next sentence, when he says “It is only later that the traveler appreciates the human suffering which has made all this possible” (1102). Thus begins Engel’s use of Romantic emotional appeal. When he describes the “deplorable” conditions that the poor live in, he is channeling the emotions of the reader rather than the rational thought. This emotion is used still to attribute the conditions to the faculties of industry, and thus, saying that human greediness found so easily in the “capitalists” degrades the poor as well as the wealthy. We find this in the lines, “Are they not all equally interested in the pursuit of happiness? And do they not all aim at happiness by following similar pursuits? Yet they rush past each other as if they had nothing in common…But no where is this selfish egotism so blatantly evident as in the frantic bustle of the great city” (1102). This is a clear depiction of both the poor and the wealthy being declined to selfish animals because of the economy they have built. These lines, however can also be used in an Enlightenment argument, as well.
We see that Engels uses Enlightenment ideals in his argument by the lines previously mentioned because the people rushing by each other are all potentially useful economic bodies for society. Engels argues for connection between individuals so that society as a whole could benefit economically, a strong Enlightenment ideal. We also see an argument of reason when he writes of the strong work ethic of the poor, despite their conditions in the city. Engels writes, “Here, too, can be seen most the strenuous efforts of the proletariat to raise themselves from their degraded situation.” (1106). This is an appeal to the rational idea of earning one’s place in society. We see that the poor are, indeed, struggling to get a place at the table by the same industrious means as the wealthy, but are coming up empty handed. The lines on page 1107, “Indeed no one can blame these helots of modern civilization if their homes are no cleaner than the occasional pigsties which are a feature of these slums” clarify the reasons the poor cannot “raise themselves” out of their conditions. The argument in this sentence is a complex one because it can be seen both as an Enlightenment one, through an appeal to the existence of strong work ethic in a member of society, and a Romantic one, through appeals to the degradation to “pigsties” that humans are placing upon other humans.