AUDACIOUS KIDS by Jerry Griswold


Coming of Age in America's Classic Children's Books
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 As argued here by Griswold (English and Comparative Literature/San Diego State Univ.), the ``Golden Age'' during which the best English and American authors wrote for children was distinguished in America by a common theme and a patriotic agenda. Griswold gives a psychological and psychohistorical reading to a dozen popular stories published between 1865 and 1914, emphasizing the Oedipal patterns in the ur-story they share: In skeleton, an impoverished and/or neglected orphan takes a journey, is adopted into a second family with a same-sex antagonist and an opposite-sex helper, ultimately triumphs, and somehow reconciles his or her first and second lives. Within this framework, Griswold discusses Dorothy's acts of matricide in Oz; the Oedipal taboo that desexualizes the heroine in Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (in essence ``much like Lolita'') and prevents her seemingly inevitable marriage to ``Sugar Daddy'' Mr. Ladd; and the ``long patricidal dream'' of Huckleberry Finn, with its many good and bad father- figures and its many instances of father-killing and (less often) son-killing. Later, Tarzan addresses America's need for legitimacy in a ``Darwinian dream'' infused with Freud; and an emphasis on maturity, self-discipline, and positive thinking are reflected in Little Women, The Secret Garden, and Pollyanna, which Griswold maintains has been unduly scorned. Whatever the status of the individual works he covers, Griswold's analysis is coherent and persuasive, often intriguing in its particulars. (Eight halftones, four linecuts--not seen.)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-19-505888-7
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Oxford Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1992