ERIC Number: ED240616
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1983-May
Reference Count: 0
"Terrible Thoughts": The Instinct of Revolt in Children's Literature.
Adults must be willing to accept attitudes of criticism and rebellion as serious and valuable components of children's literature, but they should also expect a good children's book to make some sort of moral evaluation of those attitudes. For example, while one may respect the candor with which "Hansel and Gretel" depicts the struggle of children against adults, one must also question its indulgence in moral over-simplification. The wicked witch or evil stepmother, as the incarnation of all those aspects of the mother that the child finds threatening, is a figure of absolute evil, utterly devoid of all human goodness. Stevenson in "Treasure Island" permits the supreme act of rebellion against adult aggression to occur only as a mechanical act, not as one deliberately and rationally chosen by the child. J. M. Barrie, on the other hand, in "Peter Pan" makes a moral judgment about Peter Pan's behavior. Since Peter refuses to leave the island--a paradise of childhood--he cannot find a heart; and to the extent that Peter fails to find a heart, the novel judges his rebellion a failure. One should have reservations about endorsing the moral implications of any work that encourages children to think in terms of absolute good and evil to the detriment of such qualities as sympathy and compassion. Literature should be judged not only by the complexity and sophistication with which it presents moral issues, but also by its display of humanity. (HOD)
Publication Type: Opinion Papers; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Canadian Council of Teachers of English (16th, Montreal, Canada, May 10-14, 1983).