The ten novels explored in Critical Children portray
children so vividly that their names are instantly recognizable.
Richard Locke traces the 130-year evolution of these iconic child
characters, moving from Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, and Pip in
Great Expectations to Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn;
from Miles and Flora in The Turn of the Screw to Peter Pan
and his modern American descendant, Holden Caulfield; and finally
to Lolita and Alexander Portnoy.
"It's remarkable," writes Locke, "that so many classic (or,
let's say, unforgotten) English and American novels should focus on
children and adolescents not as colorful minor characters but as
the intense center of attention." Despite many differences of
style, setting, and structure, they all enlist a particular child's
story in a larger cultural narrative. In Critical
Children, Locke describes the ways the children in these
novels have been used to explore and evade large social,
psychological, and moral problems.
Writing as an editor, teacher, critic, and essayist, Locke
demonstrates the way these great novels work, how they spring to
life from their details, and how they both invite and resist
interpretation and provoke rereading. Locke conveys the variety and
continued vitality of these books as they shift from Victorian
moral allegory to New York comic psychoanalytic monologue, from a
child who is an agent of redemption to one who is a narcissistic
prisoner of guilt and proud rage.
Subjects: Language & Literature, Sociology
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