LIT 4334: The Golden Age of Children's Literature

Kingsley’s Rebel Yell

on January 24, 2013 4:04pm

Towards the end of Water Babies, Kingsley has Tom dive head first into a land of satire and allegory that seems to come straight out of – and indeed even sites – a Jonathon Swift narrative. These individual scenes are an escalation of the rest of the narrative, and the mix of what can only be described as a mix of Gulliver’s Travels and Dante’s Inferno make for an absurd collection of scenes that deliver his sharpest satire. Kingsley’s tongue-in-cheek tone throughout the story is even more pronounced as he makes not-so-subtle political statements in which – not surprisingly – he makes another anti-American jab. Among the “Pantheon of the Great Unsuccessful” are a diverse group of “failures” from history. These people include people as diverse as the builders of the Tower of Babel and – here it comes – “…(in due time) presidents of the union which ought to have reunited” (Kingsley, 165). This is very obviously a comment on the American Civil War that could only have been more obvious if Kingsley had capitalized the word “Union”. The introduction talked about how Kingsley un-popularly supported the South and slavery, so this line is no surprise, but it is perhaps the most politically pointed example of his anti-American remarks. One is almost invited to picture – “in due time” – Lincoln sitting there to greet and berate Tom on his journey. This line was more than likely cut out of the “politically correct” reprint, but here in the unabridged version, it seems to jump out at the reader with a every ounce of a rebel yell that Kingsley can muster.

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