By Richard Locke
The ten novels explored in Critical Children painting childrens so vividly that their names are immediately recognizable. Richard Locke strains the 130-year evolution of those iconic baby characters, relocating from Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, and Pip in Great Expectations to Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn; from Miles and plant life in The flip of the Screw to Peter Pan and his glossy American descendant, Holden Caulfield; and eventually to Lolita and Alexander Portnoy.
"It's remarkable," writes Locke, "that such a lot of vintage (or, as an instance, unforgotten) English and American novels should still specialize in teenagers and teenagers now not as colourful minor characters yet because the severe heart of attention." regardless of many changes of fashion, surroundings, and constitution, all of them enlist a selected kid's tale in a bigger cultural narrative. In Critical Children, Locke describes the methods the kids in those novels were used to discover and circumvent huge social, mental, and ethical difficulties.
Writing as an editor, instructor, critic, and essayist, Locke demonstrates the way in which those nice novels paintings, how they spring to lifestyles from their information, and the way they either invite and face up to interpretation and galvanize rereading. Locke conveys the range and persisted energy of those books as they shift from Victorian ethical allegory to manhattan comedian psychoanalytic monologue, from a toddler who's an agent of redemption to 1 who's a narcissistic prisoner of guilt and proud rage.
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Extra resources for Critical Children: The Use of Childhood in Ten Great Novels
It’s notable that in the original magazine installments of the novel, the full title read The Personal History, Adventures, Experience and Observation of David Copperfield the Younger, of Blunderstone Rookery, which he never meant to be published on any account (814). The comic garrulity suggests that Dickens was still uncertain what genre the work would conform to, and the past tense of “never meant” implies that the narrator is dead and the document published posthumously—whereas in the final version the book is most definitely a famous writer’s public declaration of his heroism.
Murdstone flogs David “as if he would have beaten me to death” (62) and exiles him to his room for five days of separation from his mother. Even worse than the physical pain is David’s guilt at having become “an atrocious criminal” who might be hanged. In this, he becomes his own jailer. . ‘I’m a Tartar,’ ” he declares (90, 85). “He had a delight in cutting at the boys, which was like the satisfaction of a craving appetite. I am confident that he couldn’t resist a chubby boy, especially; that there was a fascination in such a subject, which made him restless in his mind, until he had scored and marked him for the day.
The child, of course, is Estella. Jaggers’s narrative affirms his powers as a secretly benevolent father (analogous both to the convict and to Pip as benefactor of Herbert), but it also shows Jaggers to be as cruelly self-deceived and as emotionally and morally self-serving as Pip. Pip had his fairytale; Jaggers, his secret history. Neither understands how fatal such narratives can be. Jaggers’s plot manipulations have brought destruction to all his characters—including the child Estella, who was emotionally deprived, perverted, and abused by her adoptive mother (who made her an unfeeling “puppet”  to be used in a revenge plot) and who we learn is now the victim of a violently abusive husband, a rich “gentleman” she coldly married for money and social status.
Critical Children: The Use of Childhood in Ten Great Novels by Richard Locke