British Children's Fiction in the Second World War

British Children's Fiction in the Second World War

Owen Dudley Edwards
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 752
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  • Book Info
    British Children's Fiction in the Second World War
    Book Description:

    Owen Dudley Edwards discusses reading, children's radio, comics, films and book-related play-activity in relation to value systems, the child's perspective versus the adult's perspective, the development of sophistication, retention and loss of pre-war attitudes and their post-war fate.

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-2872-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. vi-2)
  4. Part One The School of War

    • 1 Orwell v. Richards: Children’s Fiction to 1940
      (pp. 5-79)

      Once upon a time, there was a United Kingdom in an archipelago off the coast of Europe. One day when its children woke up, their country was at war. A lot of these children read stories; and this is a book about the stories written for them while the war was on.

      John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was a writer of a book for children, The Hobbit (1937), and he spent much of the war writing its sequel, The Lord of the Rings (1954–5). At the same time, he was crafting into shape for publication a lecture ‘On Fairy-Stories’ which...

    • 2 Rations and Quislings
      (pp. 81-127)

      Rationing was probably the most unavoidable symbol of the 1940s to impress itself on the child population of the UK. In its most obvious form it meant scarcity, and perhaps disappearance, of sweets, chocolate, candy and (especially after American soldiers in transit had given them a taste for it) chewing-gum.¹ Its effects would have probably annoyed most children in inverse proportion to their parents: the child might most bitterly resent the loss of sweets and sweet foods, less bitterly the loss of nourishing foods, less bitterly still clothes (clothes obsession by most children, especially males, is well and truly post-war),...

    • 3 Evacuees and Gurus
      (pp. 129-181)

      Grown-ups might tell children (in prefaces, spoken or written) that it was like a children’s party, especially those grown-ups like Richard Hughes whose marriage was put under strain by the arrival of evacuees, and who wanted to conceal the strains from their visitors, their own children, their spouses and themselves.² It is doubtful if Richard Hughes or anyone else would use such language about the second and third waves of evacuees, which respectively began with the Battle of Britain in summer 1940 and with the rocket-bombs in 1944. Evelyn Waugh, with irritating perception, opened his impressionistic portrait of Britain’s first...

    • 4 Women and Fathers
      (pp. 183-229)

      Unity or dichotomy? Sequel or innovation? Evolution or revolution? These are the obvious questions facing the historian of literature written during the Second World War in its relationship to that of the First. Paul Fussell has made the grand case for the imagery of the First World War dominating its sequel.¹ Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 (1962), he noted, carries First World War assumptions rather more than those of the Second World War in which it is situated. Charles Schulz’s comic strip Peanuts, he could have gone on to add, set the air-combat fantasies of the dog Snoopy in the First World...

    • 5 Officials and Genteel-men
      (pp. 231-290)

      The periodisation of Britain in the Second World War works out roughly as: phoney war; Battle of Britain; Blitz; Barbarossa (Hitler’s code-name for his campaign against the USSR); American entry; synchronisation; peace. These roughly coincide with the volumetitles of Churchill’s memoirs, ‘The Gathering Storm’ covering the phoney war, which culminates in the Nazi conquests of Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium and France. Waugh’s title, Put Out More Flags eloquently captures the false bravado, culminating in the ‘putting out’ of more flags in the sense of candles being put out, concluding in what Waugh called the ‘Churchill Renaissance’, when only one...

  5. Part Two Lessons which May have been Learned

    • 6 God’s Things and Others’
      (pp. 293-353)

      Some years ago, our History Society at the University of Edinburgh, having been revived under the leadership of a mature student, Mohammed Hameed, invited a survivor of Auschwitz, Dachau and Belsen (now a lector in a Glasgow synagogue) to give an account of his experiences. He spoke quietly, but with horrific effect, in an excellent lecture towards the end of which he told how, when the American troops drove in through the gates, he and his fellow-prisoners were lying on the ground, physically capable of lifting their heads but no longer of standing or even sitting beyond the use of...

    • 7 Identity, Authority and Imagination
      (pp. 355-415)

      What did the writers tell the children the war had done to them? Implicitly, they told them it had cut them off from their Empire, leaving it to them to deduce that they had lost it. Nobody wrote for them from Canada the way L. M. Montgomery had written, giving tiny Prince Edward Island the resonance of enormous Canada, yet making faraway seem home partly by valorising her remote Scottish origins. Australian works invited interest, but not identification such as Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables had won.¹ If a transoceanic writer was to win allegiance from British children after 1945,...

    • 8 Gender
      (pp. 417-461)

      ‘The nineteenth-century dislike of Realism is the rage of Caliban seeing his own face in a glass.

      The nineteenth-century dislike of Romanticism is the rage of Caliban not seeing his own face in a glass.’ Thus Wilde, replying to hostile critics of his The Picture of Dorian Gray in the ‘Preface’ for it which he published in the Fortnightly Review for March 1891.

      It erases his critics, but, as he intended, it also erases most criticisms to have emanated from his century, for the obvious reason that most criticism of anything is a repetition or contradiction of what somebody else...

    • 9 Class
      (pp. 463-543)

      Tolkien’s beautiful story of Frodo and how his servant Samwise preserved him was based on the most painful of British obsessions: class. It is really more English than British, but the Britain of 1939–45 was still ready to let England call the tune, apart from the addition of a verse or two in picturesque dialect. Tolkien had not in fact intended much of a part for Sam; the character took matters into its own hands, as characters do. It responded to what was happening in the Britain around its creation: a still respectful working and lower middle class was...

    • 10 Race
      (pp. 545-609)

      You only know your class when it is assigned to you, whether by friends, enemies or unknowns. Your gender you should be able to decide with less assistance, although it is likely that its full implications will be discovered with the aid of someone else – genuinely friendly assistance, let us hope. Your race may seem even more certain, but its implications for you are greatly affected by the attitude that you find it invites. Martha Hoden in the American Historical Review (February 2003) entitled a remarkable essay ‘The Mercurial Nature and Abiding Power of Race’, and this classification is...

  6. Epilogue
    (pp. 611-682)

    Hell came down from the sky, and Death made itself at home. Daddy went away and was killed or maybe wasn’t, but you didn’t know. Mummy often went away too, and maybe she was killed as well, and maybe you didn’t know one way or the other about her either. You were on your own, all the more when then there were endless people milling around you. Sometimes they worried about you and sometimes they didn’t, and you found it hard to say sometimes whether it was worse when they didn’t worry about you or worry you, or when they...

  7. Sources, Guides and Regrets
    (pp. 683-704)

    The origin of this book lay in a conference at the University of Edinburgh, organised by Paul Addison and Jeremy Crang, then Director and Assistant Director respectively of the Centre for Second World War Studies (now broadened to include the First World War), on the Battle of Britain. The Centre is attached to the Department of History, whose staff included them and me, and they asked me to contribute to the conference and to the resultant book, The Burning Blue (2000), on the Battle of Britain and on children’s literature. My conference paper elicited many useful comments, and the ensuing...

  8. Acknowledgements
    (pp. 705-706)
  9. Index
    (pp. 707-744)