LIT 4334: The Golden Age of Children's Literature

An In-depth Analysis of Peter Pan

322px-PeterPan_Statue_Londres

In J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, Peter Pan is portrayed as a young boy who never ages or grows up.  He never has a birthday, nor does he ever plan on having one.  He escaped from being a human boy when he flew, without wings mind you, out of his own bedroom window when he was just a baby.  Peter Pan flew to Kensington Gardens and resided there permanently; Barrie described the escape as a “youthful desire” to escape to the treetops, showing us, readers, that it is a natural and youthful characteristic to want to escape.  It is in Kensington Gardens that readers are able to see the way Peter interacts with other characters and his environment, thus explaining a great deal about his character.  The first time he arrived in Kensington Gardens was Lock-out time, when all the fairies and Nature’s creations came to life.  Every living thing in the garden shunned him at the sight of him, and Peter cried.  This shows readers that Peter may be emotionally weak or weak-minded or even the type of character who seeks out companionship; most importantly, however, it reminds us that he is still just a baby when he first escapes and arrives in the garden.  Also, Peter meets the head of the birds on the island, Solomon Caw, and he respects him very much because he is old and wise.  Solomon Caw calls him a “betwixt-and-between,” meaning that he is neither fully bird nor human, and Peter believes him as he takes on the title (Barrie 17).  Solomon Caw’s description of Peter shows us that Peter experiences an identity crisis; he does not know who or what he is or where he belongs.  This is further emphasized when we see his memories of his human life fading and as all the birds never get used to his presence on the island.  Peter felt out of place and never fit in.  To the reader, Peter may seem like an innocent, adventurous boy.  Barrie even encourages this image of Peter when he says, “But you must not think that Peter Pan was a boy to pity rather than to admire; if Maimie began by thinking this, she soon found she was very much mistaken” (Barrie 58).  Barrie praises Peter and encourages readers to admire him instead of pity him.  However, when one closely analyzes his actions and his interaction with other characters and his environment, one can see that Peter is actually a young child who needs to be pitied.  He feels out of place, he experiences an identity crisis at a very young age, and furthermore, he feels neglected, which becomes especially apparent when he returns home for the second time to find that his window has been closed and barred with his mother inside with another replacement boy.  Peter Pan is the archetype of children who are forced to grow up in the shadows of their siblings while feeling neglected by their mothers, just as Barrie did in his own childhood.

220px-James_Matthew_Barrie00

Barrie was one of seven children.  Two of his older brothers were esteemed academics, one of them, David, being the most favored by their mother, Margaret Ogilvy.  Barrie was the youngest and was, arguably, “another mouth to feed” in Margaret’s eyes.  His mother favored David and much of her attention was on him, even when he died tragically in a skating accident.  Even then, her attention was still focused on David through her mourning.  Barrie went as far as to emulate David in order to gain some affection and attention from his own mother.  Barrie is like Peter Pan in these ways.  The most pivotal moment in Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens is when Peter says, “It isn’t fair to take you [Maimie] with me if you think you can go back!  Your mother […] you don’t know them as well as I do” (Barrie 61).  Peter says this in response to Maimie’s utter confidence in the notion that her mother would want her and wait for her forever.  Peter disagrees with Maimie and says that all mothers are the same in that they do not want their children, therefore they will not wait for them to return.  These ill feelings towards mothers can be directly related to Barrie’s personal life.  So the character of Peter Pan is actually Barrie, in the sense that both feel neglected and find an identity crisis through a disconnect between the adult world and the child world; furthermore, both Pan and Barrie reserve ill feelings towards a mother figure.  Peter Pan may seem adventurous and boyish, when in fact, he is a pitied, neglected, and troubled young boy, which readers can see through his interactions to other characters and environment and also through a connection to the author’s personal life.

 

Advertisements
Leave a comment »

The Water Babies: Tom’s Coming of Age

An interesting diagram that can be interpreted as the wavering nature of coming-of-age.

In our lives, we grow, develop, and mature both mentally and physically every day in a variety of ways. Because of this, readers of literature naturally gravitate towards works focusing upon character development and evolution. A particular sub-genre, the coming-of-age story, usually chronicles a young boy or girl as they face external and internal conflicts and how those develop and mature their personalities and world-views. In Kingsley’s The Water-Babies, our protagonist Tom morphs into a water-baby and learns more about his faults and how to correct them over the course of the story, and by the conclusion both literally and figuratively transforms into an adult.

When Tom begins his journey, his demeanor reflects a quintessentially immature young boy, reflected by his habits of agitating innocent animals, prioritizing himself over others, and disobeying the rules of his adult figures. In most coming-of-age stories, the protagonist gradually learns how to sympathize, understand, and rationalize. Although Tom’s maturity slowly grows, he tends to retreat back to his poor behaviors, even after experiencing pivotal moments in his life. Early in the story, Tom initially fails to find any other water babies. After saving a lobster from a fisherman’s trap, the water babies greet him and introduce him to their home and adult figures, who congratulate him upon his refined sense of empathy. However, later in the story Tom steals sweets from Mrs. Bedonebyasyoudid, (a loving, generous adult figure) a clear sign that he has yet to truly mature. This regression indicates the difference between Kingsley’s coming-of-age story and the multitude of stories written by other authors; Kingsley suggests Tom cannot mature through one event and must continue to compromise morality in order to truly reach a point of complete ethical sensibility.

Who could steal from this loving woman?!

Another interesting difference in Kingsley’s coming-of-age story is how Tom ultimately matures as an adult. In most coming-of-age stories, a conflict’s conclusion that naturally occurs within the story serves as the impetus for the protagonist’s realizations and subsequent maturation. For Tom, he is ordered to save Mr. Grimes in order to grow from a boy into a man. Although he saves Mr. Grimes and learns more about himself and his capability to empathize, the fact that it was a dictated rite-of-passage from one of his adult figures diminishes the impact of his growth and implies that Tom would have never developed unless placed under the guidance of an adult figure. He also literally becomes a full-grown man at the conclusion of the story, a not-so-subtle indication from Kingsley that Tom has indeed matured. Most coming-of-age stories usually have the child only figuratively mature, but Kingsley probably included the detail to make the premise more apparent to younger readers.

In the end he gets the girl!

Overall, Kingsley’s unique approach to the coming-of-age story through Tom showcases a respectable understanding of the sub-genre and serves as a fitting guideline for children and parents alike.

3 Comments »

Megan Pak Introduction

 

Image

 

Hello everyone!  I’m Megan.  I am a New Orleans, Louisiana native currently living in Bradenton, Florida.  I play on the UF golf team and I have a younger sister who also plays golf competitively, but she plays for Augusta State.  I am a fourth year English major with a minor in mass communications, and I have no idea what I want to do with that after I graduate this summer.  Competitive golf has dominated my entire life ever since I was ten years old, and now that my golf career is coming to an end in a couple of months, I am lost!  Ideally, I would like to stay near the sport on the business end, such as working for the PGA Tour for example; however, teaching is another option that I have thought about, which leads me to my next point.

 

I have taken Anastasia Ulanowicz’s Adolescent Literature and John Cech’s Children’s Literature courses and loved it!  Reading Alice in Wonderland and Winnie the Pooh brings back my childhood memories.  For me, it is very fascinating to re-read the same text in depth seventeen years later and analyze its complexity even though the text seems so simple.  Maybe I am easily amused but I think it is really interesting!  I would like to spread this knowledge to others and keep children’s literature from being taken for granted.

When I hear the words “children’s literature,” I think of picture books that I enjoyed reading as a young child.  I think of Rainbow FishChrysanthemumGreen Eggs and Ham, and Mama, Do You Love Me?  If I were to define “children’s literature” prior to taking LIT 4334’s first two classes this past week, I would say that it is a genre of thin books filled with colorful pictures and short sentences intended for children.  Now, I would have to say that it is a complex genre of literary works because it is written by adults for other adults to read in order to permit their children to read them.  Ironically, children are not entirely involved in children’s literature.  Finally, “Golden Age” is a term I regard as a time period where books became classics due to its pictures, morals and overall content.  To me, the term “Golden Age” seems like the turning point or an impact in our history where significant changes occurred, which lead to the way our culture perceives literature or classics today.   

Leave a comment »

Hi, I’m Sandra.

Hi, everybody.  My name is Sandra M. Mejia.  I am a 5th year student majoring in Psychology and Japanese with a minor in English and a TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) certificate.  I am a New Yorker at the core since I moved to Florida during high school.  My hope is to go back to the north after finishing schooling here in Florida and teach high school English. Also, due to my interests and having studied abroad in Japan, I want stop in Asia to teach at some point in the near future, but we’ll see what happens.

from January 2011

Here is a picture of me.  Be warned: my hair color changes often.  🙂

Now onto why I am taking this class.  As I said before, I want to teach high school so I thought a course on Children’s Literature would be relevant.  Now that I’ve seen the list of books we’re reading, they are definitely quite relevant, and I think it’s interesting that we’ll be analyzing them.  I’m looking forward to reading everything on the list, especially the books I’ve never even heard of like The Water Babies and The Princess and the Goblin.  I am a little worried that we have spent too much time talking about whether or not it is valid to study children’s literature or not and why it matters, so I hope we don’t come back to this topic.  Why would we have the class if it wasn’t valid, you know?  I think it’s completely valid as a field of study, and I don’t see why studying the Harry Potter series would be any different from analyzing the content and meaning of Moby Dick.  If you look at literature studies in general, it’s basically a bunch of bookworms who love to read and study what they read.  You could almost say that about any field of study in higher education.  They are full of people who are really interested in a topic and just want to share it with the rest of the world, so why not?

As for what I think defines “Children’s Literature,” I’m not sure what else to say besides children’s literature is made up of the books written with children as the intended audience and any books children themselves actually pick up to read.  I’ve never thought about trying to define what kinds of books children’s literature is comprised of, and when I was child (baby age to about 8th grade), I was quite the bookworm and read all kinds of things.  I actually don’t really care which books are defined to be children’s literature because every child is different, and how quickly they develop and age don’t always match whatever is considered “normal” or “average” so I think whatever list that would be is irrelevant when considering what a child will actually read.  However, a list would be useful to help parents in choosing books for their children when they might not know what to pick up themselves.

Anyways, I’m excited to read all the books assigned for this class and to gain new perspectives on the ones I read when I was younger.  🙂

Leave a comment »

Introductory Blog Post: Cody Smith

Hey everyone! My name is Cody Smith and I am from Tampa, Florida. I graduated from Robinson High School in the IB program and obtained my IB diploma. I am currently studying for an English major (which I recently changed from Criminology) and soon a Spanish minor as a sophomore in regard to my year, but as a junior in regard to my credit hours. I plan to become a teacher of English, either as a high school teacher (which I also plan to attempt to reform our system of education) or a professor. If I achieve that goal, I also plan on writing on the side in hopes to publishing my poetry and/or narrative works. I still haven’t decided which graduate school I want to attend, but a few more years to think about it will help me narrow the decision. On a more personal note, I love music, movies, books, and writing. I love attending music festivals and concerts and make a note to read all of the best books and watch all of the best movies ever year.

I am taking this course primarily for two reasons: to take a class 3000 level or higher to adhere to my critical tracking and to learn more about a largely underrated section of literature. Since I haven not taken an English course since fall of Freshman year, I feel as though my writing and reading skills have gotten rusty. This class involves plenty of writing and reading, which I hope will aid me in bolstering my skill as a writer and ease me into my old reading habits and improve upon my concentration level as I read. I am interested in learning more about Alice and Wonderland, Peter Pan, and Pinocchio, the former of which I read in the past and loved.

My idea of “Children’s Literature” entails a text’s ability to not only entertain children but to also teach them about life, whether the story involves a moral lesson or a warning disguised as a conflict. In addition, I believe children’s literature should aim to entertain adults and perhaps reinforce what they already know about life (or even enlighten them about an idea they may not have considered). If I had to pick a favorite Children’s book, I would probably pick Alice in Wonderland for its nonsensical plot line and themes. I have yet to take a class about children’s literature, but I am still very excited to read all the books and learn more about the subject matter. For me the term “Golden Age” hearkens back to an idea where all media and thought represent an apex of quality and innovation, which possesses much greater influence over every subsequent time period up until another golden age. I wonder, though, what exactly contributes to a golden age, particularly the time period surrounding it and the lives of the authors.

Here’s a picture of me from Freshman year, still looks a lot like me:

Me

Leave a comment »

Introductory Blog: Catherine Woodcock

378588_2321370229700_676832921_n

p.s. that’s my dog, Scout!

My name is Catherine Woodcock, I’m a senior here at the University of Florida with a major in Political science and two minors in English and Mass Communication.  I am from Jacksonville, Florida (more specifically Ponte Vedra Beach if you know the area) but I spent half of my life living in England too as my dad and extensive family are British.

I have been an absolutely avid reader since early childhood and have always loved books, a quality that I think is what drew me towards taking this course.  The books I read and loved as a child heavily influence my idea of “children’s literature”. I think this genre, for me, is primarily composed of books that are colorfully written with imaginative stories, poems, and songs that entertain and stimulate the minds of children from ages two to ten.  When I hear the term “children’s literature” I can’t help but to think of that vibrant section of the bookstore with train tracks, carpets, and miniature chairs and tables filled with books of all shapes and sizes.  It conjures in my mind the books that my father read, I read, and the ones that I read to my young cousins today.  I believe that it is a cross-generational and encompassing genre that, to many varying people, reflects many differing personal inclusions and definitions highly subjected to everyone’s individual childhood experiences and memories.

Though it is difficult to choose my favorite childhood text I think I would probably have to choose The Twits by Roald Dahl.  I was devoted to anything Roald Dahl as a kid but this short novel I read countless times and truly adored.

I have never taken a children’s literature class before but I am so excited to start this course to relive and re-examine the enduring works we will be reading this semester.

The term “Golden Age” of children’s literature for me can be described, not fully but to a certain degree, by the word timeless.  They are the books that have done just that, stood the test of time and are, for the most part, staples of the general population’s childhoods across countries as well as generations.  The questions that this term inspires within me surround a growing curiosity I have concerning how we determine the qualifications that make a piece of literature timeless.

Leave a comment »