LIT 4334: The Golden Age of Children's Literature

Politics in Five Children and It

on April 3, 2013 9:54pm

E. Nesbit’s Five Children and It was probably one of the most frustrating books I have read in class thus far.  I so desperately wanted Robert, Anthea, Cyril, Jane, and Lamb to get what they wanted from Psammead.  However, every wish they wished for went so wrong!  The incompetence of the “fairy” drove me crazy.  It was almost as if Psammead was exploiting the small, innocent children, which would not be too much of a stretch considering Nesbit’s political background as an active socialist.  I believe that the relationship between Psammead and the five children is representative of the type of system that she opposes.  A socialist economy is supposed to directly satisfy the peoples’ economic demands and needs.  Although Psammead was granting the wishes of the children, every wish ended up terribly wrong:  the children wish to be beautiful and they get shut out of their own home, they ask for wings and they get stuck on top of a church, they ask for a castle that becomes mobbed, and they ask to meet real Indians which ended up being a near death experience.  Psammead, who represents the economy, is the incompetent, undesirable system that Nesbit rejects; she advocates for a socialist economy where the people, like the five children, would actually get their needs met.  Also, to add to this discussion about the parallels between Psammead and the five children and politics, the fact that Psammead is not the typical beautiful, idealized fairy contributes to this reading.  Psammead, like the system Nesbit rejects, is ugly, jaded, and not polite.  Perhaps Nesbit is trying to show the ugliness of this particular type of politics as compared to the bright, innocence of the children, who stands for the people of the society who keeps getting exploited and taken advantage of by this ugly system.  Besides this parallel between the characters and the socialist system and the people, Nesbit interjects her own two bits of politics throughout the book as well.  Although Five Children and It was a frustrating read, I liked the fact that Nesbit tried to make the novel as educational as possible, even if she was indirectly, and sometimes directly, pressing upon her socialist views and opinions.

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One response to “Politics in Five Children and It

  1. sconage says:

    To me the Five Children and It was one of the most interesting books that we have read this semester, it was interesting to see what the children would wish for and what the final outcome of the wish would be. The book did a good job illustrating to children that they would not get everything that they wish for; hopefully it showed some children that not everything is given to you and that you will only receive something through hard work and dedication.

    However, I believe that it very interesting that you compared the Psammead to the socialist economy during the time that the book was written; especially because we know that many authors during that time expressed their feelings of the economy and other political issues through their books. This also points back to the fact that the authors were not only writing for the children but also for the parents that could be reading the books to the young children.

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