As we discussed in class on Tuesday, Edith Nesbit (as well as her husband) was an active proponent of socialism. Well-known in political circles, Nesbit was never secretive as to her political alignment. It is somewhat unsurprising, then, that her most well known novel, Five Children and It, contains many themes of and allusions to socialism and the “socialist agenda”.
Some of these moments are concrete and explicit, however subtle; as we mentioned in class, the litany of “grown up” wishes is clearly one that favors at least some degree of socialism or a welfare state. While this likely went over the heads of young readers, it is often those messages that resound most lastingly; because we cannot remember them to consider them, they go unchallenged in our lexicons.
An interesting example of a “socialist” wish that went awry is the children’s wish for their mother to receive all of the jewelry of another wealthy lady – clearly, this reallocation of wealth is one of the fundamental tenets of socialism. However, this wish ends in drama for the children and the adults that they depend on; this negative outcome is not one that one would believe a socialistically inclined author to orchestrate.
However, even more than these moments I believe that the entire message and idea of the book is based around socialist ideals and practice. The children are often seen to be making wishes for others than themselves, and ultimately, their final wish is one for the Psammead himself. This idea – of using one’s fortune to help those who have no fortune – is a part of a fundamental socialist ideology. While it is not one of the concrete ideals that she mentions (mandatory second education, for example), it goes beyond the mundane and captures the essence of what socialism is designed to be.