Not only is the construction of the child something that needs to be changed; so is the view of the family. Even today there is still a preference of having two parents- Should parents need to be tied down to this role though? If they know they can’t live up to expectations of society to care for the child, maybe the problem is society’s expectations, not single parenthood itself. We’re trapped in these roles, and we’re judged if we don’t fit into these roles or if we wish to refuse them, even if it would be in the best interests of others.
You have heard of Cinderella, Rumplestiltskin, Little Red Riding Hood, and The Shoemaker and the Elves, but have you heard about The Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage? How about Farmerkin, or Thousandfurs, or Gambling Hans? Or the Boy Who Left Home to Find Out About the Shivers?
These stories, some well known, some less so, all have something in common – they are all Fairy Tales. I finished George MacDonald’s Fairy Tale The Princess and the Goblin a couple of days ago, and since then have been engrossed in Philip Pullman’s retelling of the Brothers Grimm’s Fairy Tales (Grimm Tales) and now am reading another edition of the Brothers Grimms’ Fairy Tales – an edition that was first published in 1823.
All these different fairy tales has got me wondering – what is a Fairy Tale? We know Fairy Tales can be a bit formulaic – there…
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So, I was reading something of my grandfather’s which at first really offended me. He wrote about deaf children and language. I stumbled across the word “retarded”. I chuckled, tried to move on, but came back to that. I didn’t feel like crying, I was just…stunned. I had to think though: Now, obviously, he didn’t mean to call me retarded. I mean after all, he’d written his theses in 1968. I wasn’t even born yet! However, I did spark a *conversation on Facebook, between myself and three other people, that I’d like to share.
One of the first things asked of course, was what year the publication was printed.”Bearing in mind that a language is always an inheritance from the past, one must add that the social forces in question act over a period of time. If stability is a characteristics of languages, it is not only because languages are anchored in the community. They are also anchored over time.” (Saussure, 108) I told, and then a discussion sparked about the history. “I learned the terms mildly, moderately and severely retarded when I took my education degree in 1982 – the label was related to IQ score” (Muir) It was a completely acceptable word then, what made it unacceptable? The word “retard” was actually used to replace other words which had been considered vulgar. “In my textbook I believe the terms for “mental retardation ” replaced the older labels of imbecile and idiot – if I remember correctly” (Muir). It wasn’t so much the word itself, as what it stood for that was seen as inappropriate. The DSM is responsible for the discovery and recording of psychiatric conditions. The word “retard” has been debated and challenged because it has been seen as a bad word. That got me to thinking of course, not just about the word retard, but every word. “Who gets to decide what terms are offensive to whom? What makes people censor their language? Words such as ass for example, they were common, but now they’re seen as completely different. How do words change from their original meaning to a new one? Who decides what words are appropriate for everyday conversation, and what gives them the authority to do so? ” (Power)
The conversation was, of course, about the usage of the word retard, but it could be for any ‘swearword’ today. “When a term has moved so far beyond its original meaning as to be derogatory….I would think it’s tied to its use becoming very common and loosely used. The common vernacular for gay people, black people, people of non-caucasian ethnicity, etc. has all changed over time.” (Poirier.) As the meaning of a word changes, so does the information regarding the word. “You have to consider the context and how it is used. Avoid thinking that it was used in the same manner as today – at the time, many factors, including scientific views, affected the usage.” (Gallagher) By using the word “retard” in the modern sense, I took offence. However, Karagianis, when he wrote “the theory that deaf children are temporarily conceptually retarded when compared with hearing children” (Karagianis, i) as being the topic of his study, he wasn’t trying to be mean. He was using a word that was accepted. It was not an insult then, and so when reading it, it should not be treated as a modern text in terms of language, but an outdated one. “Bearing in mind that a language is always an inheritance from the past, one must add that the social forces in question act over a period of time. If stability is a characteristics of languages, it is not only because languages are anchored in the community. They are also anchored over time.” (Saussure, 108) When reading anything, the history of the text and the usage of words has to be taken into account.
So, how does that relate to children’s literature? I’m getting to that. “My theory is that a line is drawn when a term migrates from textbook to schoolyard insult.” (Poirier.) Once words are used to hurt people- that word itself, instead of having meaning, is now stripped of the meaning it previously had, and used in derogatory ways. It no longer matters what the word once was, after it is labelled a “swearword” it is only used and thought of as an insult. It is more common in young adult literature. “I copy Gary’s word over and over- fuckfuckfuckfuck. I remember the first time I ever heard this wonderful word. I must have been eight or nine… Gary’s friend Wayne came to the door. Wayne and a boy named Bruce who went to a different school. Gary sounded so proud when he said he couldn’t go to the ravine with them because he was minding me…I wanted to go…Bruce led the way…Behind him Wayne swung his arms to catch his balance. Bruce yelled, ‘Watch where the fuck you go grabbing me, you faggot dick-head.’ ‘Faggot, faggot, faggot,’ I remember whispering into the crook of my elbow. ‘Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck.’ I didn’t know what the words meant, but they felt exciting.” (Stinson, 30-31) She knows that it is a new word, and that it’s probably not a good word. It still feels exciting to Ruby because it’s different from anything she’s heard before- and she heard it from her older brother’s friends, the friends of the person she looks up to. “To enter a peer group, children rally what ever resources are at hand to contribute to the elaboration of games. However, also important is the ideological orientation toward the languages in contact, itself constructed by child peers among themselves, through crossing and defining their own speaking styles. The sociolinguistic and linguistic anthropology studies reviewed document that children, from an early age, manipulate a broad range of linguistic features, using them to enact power, establish positive footing with peers, and articulate norms of the peer group. Developmental differences in sophistication of genres (Blum Kulka et al. 2005) and linguistic features used (e.g., younger children rely more on prosody, whereas older children rely on grammatical and lexical forms; Hoyle & Adger 1998a) are evident; however, from an early age, even as young as the preschool period, children show facility in using these features. By understanding how the linguistic forms that children use are suited to the social goals that they are seeking to accomplish in their peer social worlds, we can understand their communicative and social competence.” (Kyratzis, 642) She learns the words and remembers them because they are part of the language which is accepted in her brother’s community of peers. It has no meaning to her however, and the word, with no context except in the form of an insult, is naturally all that she attributes the words to.
Children use language in the same way that adults do. They can exclude or include people. “Adult-based models of socialization view children as passively “reproducing” adult culture. However, according to recent interpretive approaches to the study of children’s socialization, meaning creation and “interpretive reproduction” (Gaskins et al. 1992, p. 7) are active processes by which children, in their negotiations with other children, “take a variety of stances toward cultural resources- acceding to…playfully transforming, actively resisting (Gaskins et al. 1992, p. 11).” Children are not merely unformed adults (Schwartzman 2001); they reformulate social categories (e.g., friendship, gender) appropriated from the adult culture inways that are sensitive to context (Thome 1993, 2001) and reflective of children’s personalities and momentary goals and agendas in the culture of peers, goals often related to entry into, and achieving power within, peer groups (Corsaro 1985,1997; Goodwin 2001; Hirschfeld 2002;Paley 1992; Thome 2001).” (Kyratzis, 626) Children use language to structure the community. The language has changed, and the context of the words have changed because they need access to language to create relationships and structure their community. “People use their language without conscious reflection, unaware of the laws which govern it.” (Saussure, 106-107) Insults are a way to create relationships-when really thought about, we use insults to show others when we’re angry or sad; or annoyed. With the change of the meaning though, some words have lost their original meaning, and are reduced to just being words which are insults and nothing else. If a word is only a bad word, and ceases to have meaning, it may be used commonly, but only to express anger, frustration, overwhelming emotion, and seen as unsuitable for normal conversation.
It also needs to be said that everybody has power over what words they choose to use and what meaning they have. “A language belongs to all of its users. It is something all make use of every day. A language is something in which everybody participates all the time, and that is why it is constantly open to the influence of all.” (Saussure, 108) As long as enough people use a term- whether it is considered rude or not- the term will still connect to the meaning it holds for the majority of people at the moment, until time when the meaning gradually shifts again. As people use the words, they can assign their own meaning to it. “There is a connexion between these two opposing factors: the arbitrary convention which allows free choice, and the passage of time, which fixes that choice. It is because the linguistic sign is arbitrary that it knows no other law than that of tradition, and because it is founded on tradition that it can be arbitrary.” (Saussure, 108) If a word is given a meaning, and the meaning is applied to the word for a long enough time and used by a community of people, the meaning and the word will be connected. Society and history can change a word from a general regarded word used in a thesis into a word that shouldn’t be said- meant as an insult. Are there then, really any “bad” words, or are they all just simply words that have become misused in culturally and historically? I’d like to think it’s the latter. Words have power- they should be used to help, and I’d like to think that any word originally was meant to help, not hurt.
IMAGES: (In order of appearance. Everything else in alphabetical order.)
- English: “Retarded Children Can Be Helped” United States Postage Stamp, first issued on October 12th, 1974 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
- Karagianis, Leslie D. Language as a Mediational Variable in Hearing and Deaf Children. [Toronto]: n.p., 1968. Print.
- Saussure, Ferdinand de. 1986. “Excerpts from Course in General Linguistics” in Course in General Linguistics, edited by Charles Bally and Albert Sechehaye, pp. 8-15, 65-78. 1986. Lasalle
- Stinson, Kathy. Becoming Ruby. Toronto: Penguin. 2003. Print.
- Daiment, Michelle. “DSM Committee Takes Heat Over ‘Mental Retardation’ Update.” DSM Committee Takes Heat Over ‘Mental Retardation’ Update. Disabilityscoop, 29 May 2012. Web. 28 Mar. 2013.
- happyambergilmore. “A Word Gone Wrong”. Web log post. CSU CO301D WordPress, 7 March 2013, Web. April 1 2013
- Nolan, Megan. “Let’s All Be Epic Bitches and Cunts.” Weblog post. Badger Thoughts. WordPress, 27 Mar. 2013. Web. 27 Mar. 2013. .
- Robshaw, Brandon. “Frustrating.” Web Log Post Brandon Robshaw and the English Language. WordPress April 6 2013, Web. April 6 2013.
- Unknown “Are you Retarded?” The use of Clinical Jargon in Slang.” Weblog Post. Inside Out WordPress. 7 April 2013. Web. 23 April 2013.
- Kyratzis, Amy. “Talk and Interaction Among Children and the Co-construction of Peer Groups and Peer Culture.” Annual Review of Anthropology 33 (2004): 625-49.JSTOR. Web. 29 Mar. 2013.
- Muir S, L Poirier, S Gallagher, and J Power. “Never thought I’d see the word “retarded” in a university paper-in a theses- In my Granddad’s vocabulary. Must find out more about the usage of this word….” 26 Mar 2013. N.p., Online Posting to Facebook. Web. 28 Mar. 2013.
*Permission was obtained through Facebook before quoting the people in the conversation. Last names have been used, first initials have been used to protect any privacy concerns they may have.)
A really interesting post about marketing children’s books from an author’s point of view. Also mentions age restrictions on Youtube. I don’t necessarily agree with the can’t be younger than 13 to sign up- it is limiting. It’s something to think about- for what extent are author’s writing for the parents- it’s about what the parents THINK the children would like. I believe that choosing books though should be something that a child is involved in from a young age- if they choose the books, they can decide what they like and dislike; it isn’t the parent’s place to tell children what they should enjoy.
It was recently suggested to me that I should visit parenting blogs as a sort of indirect way to market my book. The idea is, if I comment on parenting blogs and my comments are intriguing enough, then parents will take interest in me, find my blog, and check out my work. So right away, I began googling, looking for all the mommy blogs I could find. But there’s just one problem, I’m not a Mom. I’m a man. I don’t even have kids. I’m not in the habit of visiting Mommy blogs, and I’m not sure it’s something I want to do. Vising Mommy blogs for the sole purpose of attracting people to my work sounds disingenuous.
However, the idea did get me to thinking. “Who is my real audience?” “Who do I write for?” I think these are questions that every children’s author should ask themselves. “Who do…
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First of all, I’d like to make a dedication. To Leslie Karagianis-the guy responsible for most of the research component of this post. I wish I’d heard this from you and not Google.
A word of caution. I am going to be talking about child abuse. I will be analyzing children’s books and explaining how these stories can help children deal with child abuse and others’ reactions to it. This post may offend some readers and/or contain ideas about sensitive subjects. If you start to feel uncomfortable, please get off and go read something else.
Most children read for enjoyment, or because they have to read for school. Some read however, because they need to escape. Some read because they need to find solace in something; something that reminds them that they are not alone. My grandfather wrote about child abuse concerning disabled children, and I think I’d like to connect what he found with my own studies. This may be in two or maybe even three parts, because it is a very dense subject.
“There are two kinds of pain that the human can endure. Physical pain, and emotional pain. Our society has traditionally tolerated pain of both varieties. During the last few years there’s been a lot being directed towards the physical abuse of children. Possibly because it’s more dramatic, possibly because it’s more tangible. Possibly because it’s easier to make society more aware of it.” (Nesbit) Abuse can come in many forms: physical, emotional, sexual, it can be in terms of neglect, where the child is simply expected to look after themselves or is not acknowledged by the adult at all. Emotional abuse is perhaps the most insidious and is described as “the mutilation of a child’s spirit.” (Nesbit) It lowers self esteem, can be easier for the child to dismiss, and it can be hard to detect. Psychological abuse “has epitomized the kind of thinking our society has been immersed in over the last couple of centuries. The idea that the child doesn’t have rights. The child is a shadow of it’s parents.” (Nesbit.) It has history: the cult of the child and Puritan values of child rearing are still present today as well. Particularly in terms of abuse. I’ve talked about bullying: I believe that is a form of abuse which children subject on each other. People do get hurt from this form of abuse. In some respects, this is another expression of contact zones. The parent is at the apex and the child is relegated to the margins or abjected.
In terms of who is most likely to be abused: one theory is that those with disabilities are more likely to be hurt. Using the concept of the circle again, it makes sense: the able-bodied are at the apex and the disabled are forced out of the margins of society. “Today one of the most frequently asked questions concerning child abuse and the handicapped child is whether or not the handicapped child is predisposed to abuse. When one considers the relationship between disabilities or handicapped parent and child abuse there are two possible explanations. First of all that the disabilities or disabilities in children can produce stress in parents. This stress makes it very difficult for the parents to cope with the child and therefore they abuse that child. The other explanation is that the handicapping the victim results from child abuse rather than before which could be attributed to the abuse. Although the role of handicapping conditions changes is very difficult to assess in child abuse there does appear to be a relationship between the two…The child who is abused tends to be overactive or else present some problem to the parent in regards to physical abuse. A number of characteristics make children vulnerable to abuse. They cited mental retardation, physical handicaps, poor health, and in fact anything that is perceived about the child by the parent to be different. According to Helfer’s model of child abuse three conditions are required for abuse to occur. First of all a child, a very special kind of child: an exceptional child is of course a special child. A crisis or series of crisis and the third characteristic is the potential for abuse within the parent. Helfer also points out that the child must be perceived by the parent to be special or actually be special or someone who is different from other children.” (Karagianis.) Adults have to find something which makes the child deserving of being left on the margins. They are dehumanized- because it is easier to abuse an “it” than a “her” or a “him”-something with a name. As a result, emotional abuse strips away a child’s being. They may never be referred to by their name, and referred to as a thing- a child, an idiot, etc. etc. It is the parent who has the potential to abuse, not the child who has the potential to be abused.
Matilda is seen by her parents as “nothing more than a scab. A scab is something you have to put up with until the time comes when you can pick it off and flick it away. Mr and Mrs Wormwood looked forward enormously to the time when they could pick their little daughter off and flick her away, preferably into the next county or even further than that.” (Matilda, Dahl, 10) She is different from the others in her family, and it is seen as a good thing by the narrator. “It is bad enough when parents treat ordinary children as though they were scabs and bunions, but it becomes somehow a lot worse when the child in question is extraordinary, and by that I mean sensitive and brilliant. Matilda was both of these things… Her mind was so nimble and she was so quick to learn that her ability should have been obvious even to the most half-witted of parents. But Mr and Mrs Wormwood were both so gormless and so wrapped up in their own silly lives that they failed to notice anything unusual about their daughter. To tell the truth, I doubt they would have noticed had she crawled into the house with a broken leg.” (Matilda, Dahl, 10) They neglect her and her intelligence sets her apart from her brother. What would be seen as a gift to most people is a burden to the Wormwoods. “By the age of one and a half her speech was perfect and she knew as many words as most grown ups. The parents, instead of applauding her, called her a noisy chatterbox and told her sharply that small girls should be seen and not heard.” (Matilda, Dahl, 11). She enjoys reading, and her parents are more concerned about television. Her father asks her “‘What’s wrong with watching the telly, may I ask?’… His voice had suddenly become soft and dangerous. Matilda didn’t trust herself to answer him, so she kept quiet” (Matilda, Dahl, 28). The difference in their interests makes Matilda an outsider in her family. While she strives for knowledge, her parents seek to limit it. Matilda’s father goes so far as to ruin a book she has. “With frightening suddenness he now began ripping the pages out of the book in handfuls and throwing them in the waste-paper basket. Matilda froze in horror. The father kept going. There seemed little doubt that the man felt some kind of jealousy. How dare she, he seemed to be saying with each rip of a page, how dare she enjoy reading books when he couldn’t? How dare she?” (Matilda, Dahl, 41) It is not that he dislikes her exactly, but he resents the fact that she has been able to learn when he can’t. Her parents have to despise her to dismiss the fact that they can not do what she does. They dislike her because she has qualities that they do not possess.
At school, things aren’t much better for Matilda. The first description of somebody at the school is of the headmistress. “Miss. Trunchbull, the Headmistress…was a gigantic holy terror, a fierce tyrannical monster who frightened the life out of pupils and teachers alike. There was an aura of menace about her even at a distance, and when she came up close you could almost feel the dangerous heat radiating from her as from a red-hot rod of metal…if a group of children happened to be in her path, she ploughed right on through them like a tank, with small people bouncing off her left and right. Thank goodness we don’t meet many people like her in this world, although they do exist and all of us are likely to come across at least one of them in a lifetime.” (Matilda, Dahl, 67) Miss Trunchbull scares everybody- not just children, but adults as well. This intimidation is a thing which she enjoys. There are benefits to being able to scare the children. During disagreements, the person she is talking to often feels very small, and they don’t try to discuss things with her because they are too scared. “Miss Honey stood there helpless before this great red-necked giant. There was a lot more she would like to have said, but she knew it was useless.” (Matilda, Dahl, 89). She is speechless. Nobody is allowed to say anything unless it follows Miss Trunchbull’s ideas about the school, and nobody would try to because they are too scared. “[Miss Trunchbull] hardly ever spoke in a normal voice. She either barked or shouted.” (Matilda, Dahl, 85) She shouts to seem intimidating, and once she has that power that she wants, she continues to use her power to keep her position. It is noted that “How she ever got her present job was a mystery.” (Matilda, Dahl, 82) and so to keep people from questioning, she uses fear. It works like an open secret- she doesn’t have the qualifications to do the job, but nobody will say anything out loud because they are too scared.
Anybody can be emotionally abusive. A friend, a parent, a co worker, a sibling, a teacher, and anybody can be emotionally abused. In the school system, “The child may be abused emotionally by the teacher who does not have the resources to deal with exceptional children. In cases like this it is our belief that the child may be abused. The child may be abused emotionally by teachers who do not have the resources to cope with the child in the classroom.” (Nesbit) Teachers, just like parents can be stressed by a child’s disability and not know how to handle it. As said before, the stress can help rationalize the abuse from an adult’s point of view. “All teachers do not have the capabilities or the resources to deal with exceptional children. We have to be aware of the fact that in a general context; in choosing teachers and paying teachers we must have teachers who are sensitive, teachers who are patient, teachers who are going to interact with children.” (Nesbit) The school and the home are separate. What happens at school is often not heard about by parents, and what happens at home is not heard about by teachers. The public sphere and the private sphere also come into this then. The home is the private sphere- the domestic sphere. The school is the public sphere, meant for the purpose of an education. There is no overlap. (Just think of how many times your parents asked you “How was school today?” and you replied “It was good.”, then they asked “What did you do today at school?” and you said “Nothing” and quickly fled from the view of your parents.)
In James and the Giant Peach, I have already suggested that James’ aunts threaten him and strip him of his identity. He is isolated at his aunt’s house as well, “No other children were ever invited to come up the hill and play with Poor James. There wasn’t so much as a dog or a cat around to keep him company.” (James and the Giant Peach, Dahl, 5) They keep him dependant on them, and without companions, he is completely alone. They are able to do this because he has nobody else to turn to. Similarly in Bud Not Buddy, Mrs. Amos’ “ears…were set not to believe anything I said.” (Curtis, 17). Bud is a foster child, and the Amoses have judgements of him before they even know him. “I am not the least bit surprised at your show of ingratitude. Lord knows I have been stung…before. But take a good look at me because I am one person who is totally fed up with you and your ilk. I do not have time to put up with the foolishness of those …who do not want to be uplifted. In the morning I’ll be getting in touch with the Home and, much as a bad penny, you shall be returning to them. I am a woman of my word, though, and you shall not spend one night in my house…Mr. Amos will show you to the shed tonight and you can come back in tomorrow for breakfast before you go. I do hope your conscience plagues you because you have ruined things for many others. I do not know if I shall ever be able to help another child in need. I do know I shall not allow vermin to attack my poor baby in his own house.” (Curtis, 14-15). Bud is judged because he is a foster child. He is unable to defend himself against Mrs. Amos’ words because she would not believe him anyway. His voice has been lost. He is not really a part of the family, but someone who is an income to their household. They are “being paid to take care of me.” (Curtis, 13) and he is not seen as human. He is called ‘vermin’. In Anne of Green Gables, Anne is also not cared for until she meets the Cuthberts. She has been an unpaid babysitter and when asked if her previous families were good, she says “They meant to be-I know they meant to be as good and kind as possible. And when people mean to be good to you, you don’t mind very much when they’re not quite-always. They had a good deal to worry them, you know.” (Montgomery, 41). She censors the way she talks about her last families, and gives excuses for them- they had several kids they had to put first, the husband was a drunk; but there is more to the story than what she tells. She is a daydreamer, and it is easy to believe that her imagination probably made up for rough times at the Hammond’s and the Thomas’.
In Hold Fast the emotional abuse by the main character’s uncle is used to keep control of his family. “Once he got himself into the right gear, it all boiled down to this. The way he wanted things in the house was the way they had to be done. That was it. No questions asked unless you wanted a bloody big fight on your hands. It was up to him when we had supper, who done the dishes. He decided what channel was on the color T.V, what time everybody was expected to be in bed, what time everyone was awake in the morning. Cripes, it got so after a while I didn’t know whether or not I should try going to the bathroom to take a leak without first getting his okay.” (Major, 63) Although the narrator tries to make light of the situation, he is intimidated by the atmosphere as well. “The way the old man went about things rubbed off on everybody else in the house. They all walked around looking like they was so bloody miserable most of the time. If they smiled, all their faces probably would a cracked in two pieces.” (Major, 66) His actions make the others worried. They can not act the way they wish to and feel scared when Ted is in the house. The house seems more like a museum than a home. The main character is able to offer a contrast between Ted’s behaviour and his own father’s behaviour concerning the way he acts. “The swear words, when he spitted them out of him, was almost enough to curl up my guts. Not the words, that was nothing. I was used to that. But the way he said them. People swears in different ways. Dad use to swear and he hardly had a clue he was saying it. But the way the same words came out of Uncle Ted, it was like a set of teeth tearing into her.” (Major, 62). The words are hurtful, they are constant, and he knows that they are like a wound. Ted swears to hurt others, he doesn’t do it just for the sake of using words.
“Terms such as “best interests of the child” and the child’s “emotional needs” are vaguely defined, leaving judges to consider subjectively facts presented. In Ontario, in order to prosecute, a child must be an “endangered child,” and the court must prove actual serious harm or imminent risk of such harm. The abuse must be “frontal and eviscerating” to be considered a matter for the court (Lewis, 1982). Clearly, the Canadian legal system does not hold great promise in the short term. The problem of definition is long standing. Perhaps the following captures the essentials: psychological abuse is the denial of essential psychological nutrients or the denegration of personal worth through domination techniques and patterns of interaction which are damaging to the emerging personality. Behaviours which align with the definition can be specified. Most individual acts or remarks can be evaluated as abusive or nonabusive, but it is not an easy delineation. Both intent and interpretation play major roles in both the sender’s and receiver’s perception of what is abusive.” (Karagianis) I’d like to think that because this is an article from 1987, that we’ve gotten a bit farther than Karagianis stated in the last twenty five years. However, we are still often at a loss of what abuse is. The language describing abuse is often vague. At what point is there a shift made from having an adult having a bad day to emotional abuse? This is actually where binary opposition would be a good thing. Everybody is different, so how much one can take also differs from person to person.
IMAGES (In order of appearance, everything else in alphabetical order.)
- Curtis, Christopher Paul. Bud Not Buddy. New York: Yearling, 1999
- Dahl, Roald. James and the Giant Peach. New York: Puffin, 2007.
- Dahl, Roald. Matilda New York: Scholastic, 1996
- Major, Kevin. Hold Fast. Toronto: Groundwood Books. 2003
- Montgomery, L. M. Anne of Green Gables. [Toronto]: Seal, 1996.
- Karagianis, Leslie D., and Wayne C. Nesbit. “Education 3460. Problems and Issues in Special Education. No 26. Psychological Abuse of Children.” Memorial University DAI: Kindergym. Memorial University of Newfoundland, n.d. Web. 11 Mar. 2013.
- Karagianis, L. D. & Nesbit, W.C (1987). Psychological abuse in the home and in the school. Canadian Journal of Education,12(1), 177-183. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/1494999
First of all, I have my mother to thank for this post. Second of all, this post is about illness in children’s literature. My mom has a fever. She’ll recover. Wow, it feels awful to be saying thank you to her when she feels so bad. Well, it’s inspired me, what else can I say?
Everybody gets sick. It’s a sign that the body is not indestructible. Sometimes being sick can be as minor as having a cold, or it could be as serious as being in a coma. In children’s stories, there are several instances where people are sick, however there is always a comforting message and a peaceful resolution in the end: You will get better, or suffering no longer has to happen.
Children are exposed to sickness, and they do get sick, just like adults. They have lowered immune systems and while being sick is no fun; they need care and understanding that everything will be okay, even if they don’t feel great at the moment. “Miss Polly had a dolly” is a song about a doll who is sick. The doctor comes, and tells Miss Polly what to do to take care of it. Books about children being sick can help children understand a lot- once they understand why they get sick, it is a less frightening ordeal to go through.
The story of Madeline deals with being in the hospital. Madeline has to get her appendix taken out. She spends the night in the hospital, which is shown as an amusing place. “On her bed there was a crank, and a crack on the ceiling had the habit of sometimes looking like a rabbit.” (Bemelmans,) It is also seen as a fun experience as she receives visitors and they see what she has. “VISITORS FROM TWO TO FOUR read a sign outside her door. Tiptoeing with solemn face, with some flowers and a vase, in they walked and then said “Ahhh,” when they saw the toys and candy and the dollhouse from Papa. But the biggest surprise by far – on her stomach was a scar!” (Bemelmans,) It is a positive experience, up to the point where the other girls “want [their] appendix out too!” (Bemelmans, )
More common are books about children watching someone else who is sick. In the Magician’s Nephew, Digory defends himself when he is accused of ‘blubbering’, saying that others would cry too “if your mother was ill and was going to…die.” (Lewis, 10) It is acceptable to cry and to be worried and/or scared about the health of someone else. It is a normal reaction. The Magician’s nephew alludes to the story of Genesis in the Bible. Digory is tempted by the witch to give the apple to his mother as she says “One bite of that apple would heal her…Go back to your own world. A minute later you can be at your Mother’s bedside, giving her the fruit. Five minutes later you will see the colour coming back to her face. She will tell you the pain is gone. Soon she will tell you she feels stronger…Next day everyone will be saying how wonderfully she has recovered. Soon she will be quite well again. All will be well again.” (Lewis, 150) The Witch represents the Serpent, and the apple is forbidden. Digory can not save his mother; as he is told by Aslan that the apple “would have healed her; but not to your joy or hers. The day would have come when both you and she would have looked back and said it would have been better to die in that illness.” (Lewis, 163). If he had listened to the witch, his mother’s life would be worse. He has to accept that he is not able to heal his mother, it is up to fate to heal her. He is allowed to save her with the permission of Aslan “What I give you now will bring joy. It will not, in your world, give endless life but it will heal. Go. Pluck her an apple from the tree.'” (Lewis, 163) Aslan tells him that she will eventually die, as everyone has to, but she will get better from the illness she is suffering from at the moment. “There she lay, as he had seen her lie so many other times, propped up on the pillows, with a thin, pale face that would make you cry to look at it. Digory took the Apple of Life out of his pocket.” (Lewis, 166) The Apple is magical. It has power- but it only has power because Aslan has allowed Digory to take it. “The brightness of the apple threw strange lights on the ceiling. Nothing else was worth looking at: indeed you couldn’t look at anything else. And the smell of the Apple of Youth was as if there was a window in the room that opened on Heaven…He peeled it and cut it up and gave it to her piece by piece.” (Lewis, 167) The apple works, as “About a week after this it was quite certain that Digory’s mother was getting better…a month later the whole house had become a different place.” (Lewis, 169) and the doctor says that “It is like a miracle.” (Lewis, 168) Aslan has the power to make Digory’s mother stronger; Digory is able to help his mother though by delivering the apple. He has no control over her illness. He needs help from others to make his mother better.
Other times, the characters in children’s books can heal others. In Anne of Green Gables Anne helps her friend’s little sister. The adults are not at home, so they have to rely on Anne to help. “Minnie May, aged three, was really very sick. She lay on the kitchen sofa, feverish and restless, while her hoarse breathing could be heard all over the house. Young Mary Joe, a buxom, broad-faced French girl from the Creek, whom Mrs. Barry had engaged to stay with the children during her absence, was helpless and bewildered, quite incapable of thinking what to do, or doing it if she thought of it.” (Montgomery, 142) Anne has to take control, because the person who is supposed to be taking care of Minnie May and Diana doesn’t know what to do. Anne has experience looking after sick children, and nurses Minnie May back to health.”Minnie May did not take kindly to the ipecac, but Anne had not brought up three pairs of twins for nothing. Down the ipecac went, not only once, but many times during that long, anxious night when two little girls worked patiently over the suffering Minnie May, and Young Mary Joe, honestly anxious to do all she could, kept on a roaring fire and heated more water than would have been needed for a hospital of croupy babies.” (Montgomery, 143) She takes control, while Mary Joe, stays in the background. She tries to be helpful, but Anne is the only one who can look after Minnie in this situation. As a child, she has more knowledge and experience than an adult, and she is able to do the work, even when “Matthew came with the doctor…the pressing need for assistance was past. Minnie May was much better and was sleeping soundly.” (Montgomery, 143) She has experience and is able to use the experience she has to help Diana. Without Anne there, Minnie May would have died, as the doctor tells the Barry’s later. Even though she is a child, she was able to help when an adult was in a crisis.
Introducing sickness in children’s books can empower children. Once they realize that they can help to make someone sick feel comfortable, or that they may feel better soon if they are sick themselves, it is seen as just a part of life. Everybody gets sick, including children, but there are ways that they can get better, by going to the doctor, by taking care of themselves, and by trusting others who care about them to help them feel better.
(In the process of writing this post my mother recovered. I, however, have been suffering with a hacking cough. Just woke up and it was there. Throat hurts. Rather unfortunate-Well, at least I can follow my own advice and remind myself it will be over soon!)
IMAGES (In order of appearance. Everything else in alphabetical order.)
- Bemelmans, Ludwig. Madeline. [New York]: Puffin, 1977. Print.
- Lewis C.S The Magician’s Nephew Canada: Fontana Lions, 1980
- Montgomery, L. M. Anne of Green Gables. [Toronto]: Seal, 1996.
- Miss Polly Had a Dolly-Wiggles (Nursery Rhymes). Prod. Kids365tv. Perf. The Wiggles.YouTube. YouTube, 18 May 2011. Web. 04 Mar. 2013. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AG3EaIeU62Y>.
- Donada, Ryan K. “Genesis and The Magician’s Nephew.” Web log post. The Meta-Kafkasis. WordPress, 7 May 2012. Web. 17 Mar. 2013. <http://metakafkasis.wordpress.com/2012/05/07/genesis-and-the-magicians-nephew/>.
I’ve put off focussing on the family in children’s literature, but I’ve decided it’s important to talk about how not only children are viewed, but how adults are viewed as well- You can’t have children without adults. I’ve talked about fairy tales before, but in terms of the roles they play in driving the plot. This is meant to coincide with my Gender and Sexuality course blog, I thought I haven’t written here, so I may as well stop putting it off.
In fairy tales, “the Grimms chose in later editions to turn mother into stepmother, no doubt because they did not wish to confront their child-readers with such unnatural maternal behaviour.” (Hallett, 140) This is why heroines such as Snow White, Cinderella, and Beauty have no mother. What is ‘unnatural maternal behaviour?’ Or what has it been? That’s what this post is all about.
In the Puritan times, “the child was obliged to grow up quickly and fend for him or herself, so in a world where mere survival is a constant challenge, it is reasonable to speculate that the emotional attachment between parent and child was sometimes less intense than in our own world of relative affluence and leisure.” (Hallett, 139) Forming relationships was not as important as today- who people knew was not important as what they did- to survive they needed to know how to do so. Children often died very young, so parents weren’t expected to have a close attachment to them. With the rise of the cult of childhood, as the view of children did, so did the role of the mother. “Until the beginning of the 21st century the drama between mothers and daughters were made relatively unexplored in literature…The images of mothers that did exist were rather sentimental.” (Humphreys, lecture).
In this clip, Wendy is explaining to Michael what a mother is. Her view of them as angelic and protective was the stereotypical view of how mothers were meant to be viewed in the nineteenth century. It is also worth noting that she takes on the role of the mother in the absence of her own. A mother is necessary in a child’s life: fathers are allowed to be absent, but if a mother is absent, there must be a mother-like figure (an older sister, an aunt, a stepmother or adoptive mother) to step into that role. With the death of a mother- including the absence of one as seen in the clip above or in stories where orphans figure, the mother is mourned, as someone who “would have been always present. A mother would have been a constant friend, her influence would have been beyond all other.” (Austen, 132). Even in fantasy books, which children turn to as an escape from the real world, mothers are still present. In the Harry Potter series there are several examples of the ways that mothers interact with or have an effect on their children.
This image of the mother is limited to Western culture. “In Aboriginal ideology, producing life and raising children are understood as the creation of a people, a nation, and a future. The Iroquois recognize this authority both informally and formally, as exemplified by their traditional political system. In this system, older women (clan mothers) are seen as the most suitable members to choose the upcoming chiefs by virtue of the fact that they have watched all the children closely from their earliest years. They have overseen the growth of the future community members, and thus can make well-informed decisions about who should carry which responsibilities.” (Anderson, 170). These women have power because they raise the children, it is not limited because it is seen as the only role they have, as in Western culture. Mothers are treated this way in indigenous culture because of the way children are viewed. Children are seen as a part of the community- they aren’t sectioned off as a group of their own. There is also no single mother in charge, children have several mothers whom they can turn to: it is not seen as a loss if a child is with their grandmother, or aunt, or adoptive mother because “in the Aboriginal ideology of motherhood, all women have the right to make decisions on behalf of the children, the community, and the nation. The Aboriginal ideology of motherhood is not dependent on whether, as individuals, we produce children biologically. Women can be mothers in different ways… They are thought of as mother and grandmother in the figurative sense, and their role is the same as that of any mother: to teach, nurture, and heal all people, not just their own.” (Anderson, 171) In Will’s Garden, the family situation is described as a wheel: “The whole clan moves as a unit, and the feelings of its women are the center of its unit. Us kids are all spokes in the family wheel, the women stand at the hub and the men wrap themselves around those to make sure the wheel turns around free and easy.” (Maracle, 43) The women have control not only over the children, but the other members of the family as well. The job of the father is simply to support the ideas of the mother. “In a Sto: loh house the kitchen is the domain of the women and the not-yet-talking kids…We are allowed to be anywhere we please but in the kitchen the women only pay attention to the kids still wearing diapers, and to each other.” (Maracle, 8-9) The role that mothers play is to look after the very young children, older children are expected to look after themselves. The role of the grandmother and the mother are interchangeable. “Mom’s…eyes are as warm and as happy as ever, but her body has about had it with kids. Twenty-seven years of us and now she is in the home stretch. She has one of Callie’s babies in her arms. She strokes the baby’s hair and gives her such a sweet look. I picture her looking at each one of us like that, stroking our hair, and getting ready for ceremony after ceremony, year after year. After I am grown up, things will change. She will be like Gramma, sitting in the corner making whatever she feels like. Staying up till she feels like turning in, then just going to bed not worrying about what’s done and not done, just going to sleep in Grandpa’s arms. Gramma always had one of us sleeping on her ample lap. She still does. The one Momma is now holding is snoozing away on Gramma’s lap till she turns in. Momma lays the child on a blanket in the kitchen until she is ready to take her up to bed with her.” (Maracle, 100). One of the maxims in Will’s household is that “‘The head woman is always someone’s mother.’ She is not elected, nor is she self-appointed. She seems to be recognized by her siblings and the men around her the way my mom is recognized and it seems to have something to do with her knowledge. It is a slippery kind of recognition. If my mom doesn’t know anything about something she hands over the reins to some woman she knows does know about whatever. Everyone switches allegiance to this other woman. It is never said out loud in any direct kind of way. She will just casually ask Ellie what she thinks and like magic we all know-Ellie be the boss here. No votes, no election, no platform, just simple acknowledgement.” (Maracle, 41-42) Women make the decisions, and everybody acknowledges them, not just as mothers, but as people with knowledge. The role of the mother is important, and it is because they have raised children that they have knowledge-raising children is just as important, or more important than supporting the family like in Western society. Knowledge is gained through the family in generations. Despite that, Will admits that “I don’t really know this woman called my mother. Her touch is familiar, but not her being…For fifteen years I have watched her work, heard the odd quip from her, seen her love my father in her looks, her small devotions, a clandestine touch when she believes no one is looking, but I have no idea how she thinks or what she thinks. I used to wonder what she thought about when I was small and I watched her during those hours of labour so tied to our living, our being. I know I have seen her mothering, felt its embrace like a soft folded full skirt and I have seen her as a new grandmother, but she is still such a stranger to me.” (Maracle, 70) He knows her role as a mother, and a grandmother, but is struggling to see her role as a person. She identifies to Will as a wife, a mother, part of the household, but nothing more. He does recognize that she has several other things which define her and he wants to see them.
In many children’s books, the loss of a mother is something which is seen as nearly traumatic, and these children often seek to find a substitute. In Anne of Green Gables, Anne has never known her mother so relies on information that others give her and her imagination to create an image of her mother. “Mrs. Thomas said I was the homeliest baby she ever saw…but that mother thought I was perfectly beautiful. I should think that a mother would be a better judge than a poor woman who came in to scrub, wouldn’t you? I’m glad she was satisfied with me anyhow; I would feel so sad if I thought I was a disappointment to her-because she didn’t live very long after that… She died of fever when I was just three months old. I do wish she’d lived long enough for me to remember calling her mother. I think it would be so sweet to say ‘mother.'” (Montgomery, 39). The very act of calling somebody ‘mother’ would cement Anne’s identity as part of a family. When Anne is debating what to call Marilla after the Cuthberts have decided to keep her, she tries to compromise on this notion of a family by trying to acknowledge Marilla as an Aunt. “I’d love to call you Aunt Marilla..I’ve never had an aunt or any relation at all-not even a grandmother. It would make me feel as if I really belonged to you. Can’t I call you Aunt Marilla?” (Montgomery, 54). She is constantly trying to find an attachment to others who could serve as a mother-like figure since she has never had one of her own. She believes that the act of calling someone ‘mother’ or ‘aunt’ is needed to formally recognize herself as part of a family.
In The Belonging Place, Elspet has doubts about her adoptive mother after seeing the way that her neighbour reacts to an orphan which she has to take in. She thinks it is a sense of duty which caused her aunt to adopt her, and thinks of distancing herself. “I thought of pulling away. I could not make myself do it. All day, I had been longing to lean my head against her and feel her arms close around me. I already guessed that the story would change everything back to the way it had been. I so wanted to be my mother’s own Elspet Mary again. I yearned to return to being the cherished child I had been ever since Da gave me into her arms.” (The Belonging Place, Little, 114) As she becomes more aware of the different reactions which adoptive mothers may have towards their new children, she questions her mother’s own feelings. Her mother reassures her that “I would not have let you go anyway, heart of my heart. From the moment you got your little hands out of that plaid shawl and reached them up around my neck, you were my own little bairn. I had lost two little ones, just like Jeanie’s mother lost her son. I needed you as much as you needed me. What an enchanting babe you were!” (The Belonging Place, Little, 115-116). Her mother cares about her as if she were biologically her own, and Elspet feels as if she has always grown up with the family that she has been adopted by. She does not remember her own mother, much like in Anne’s situation, but she does have more support than Anne had, and does not feel the need to hold onto her biological mother as much because she has a substitute family.
Awake and Dreaming by Kit Pearson has both the image of a good mother, and a bad one. In Theo’s real life, her mother is self absorbed. She puts her own needs first and neglects her child. “The only times Rae really seemed to care about her was after she had hit her. But those were the times when Theo felt the most removed.” (Pearson, 40) She only seems to care about her child when she feels guilty. When she speaks to Theo over the phone she “went on and on about Cal-the parties they’d been to, the trip they’d taken to Cultus Lake. She complained as usual about her boss and customers. She never said anything about coming to visit. At the end her voice became strained as she asked Theo how she was. ‘Good,’ said the puppet Theo.” (Pearson, 151) Theo is the last person on her mother’s mind. Part of this could be her age- Rae is only twenty-five, but she is also neglectful and scares Theo with her rage. “Theo could feel the heat of her mother’s temper like a flaring flame beside her. She quaked inside… When she was sure Rae was gone, she closed the book and leaned back against the seat, trembling and trying not to cry. She looked out to the side window and saw Rae’s back… Theo kept staring out the window. If only her mother would never come back!” (Pearson, 58) She despises her mother because her mother is selfish, and it is also relevant to point out that Theo refers to her mother by her first name-Rae. Rae either does not deserve the title of a mother, or has refused the title of mother, so when Theo creates a new family, she is thrilled when the first interaction she has with her “new family” is about what her new parents should be called. “Laura leaned forward, her eyes full of affection. ‘Dan and I have been discussing what you should call us, Theo. Of course we aren’t your real parents, but since you’re part of this family now, do you want to call us Mum and Dad like the others do? Or would you prefer Laura and Dan…It’s entirely up to you, and you don’t have to decide right away.’ Theo almost fell off her chair. ‘Part of this family now.’ Then it had happened! But how?…But Theo didn’t want to think about how or why. She was here in this safe, cozy house. Somehow her wish had come true-a pleasant woman was sitting beside her asking Theo if she wanted to call her ‘Mum'” (Pearson, 81-82). Laura welcomes the position as a mother, while Rae does not. She is conscious of Theo’s need for a real family. Theo has created one in the fantasy world. In the fantasy world, she lives with two older siblings, two younger ones, a father, a mother, and a dog. Part of the initiation of being in a real family is being able to acknowledge the parents as parents- “Mum and Dad” and not simply recognizing them as people. Theo can’t help comparing the two. “She thought of Rae compared to Laura-Laura who had once been her mother, but only in a fantasy.” (Pearson, 220) She has to create a fantasy because her mother is unable to fill the role that Theo needs in a mother. “As children… we don’t have full agency. We’re still very much attached to our passionate attachment-Your parents… The people who are going to or whoever keeps you alive when you are basically a larvae. You come out, you can not walk, you can not feed yourself. That’s when you create that attachment…” (Humphreys, lecture) She needs to be able to depend on her mother, as she cannot support herself, she has to know that she will be able to rely on her mother for her basic needs. “That passionate attachment is powerful… The cultural encoding of what it means to be a mother…[The caregiver needs to be] complicit in her role to the extent of mother and wife so that she can use proper names…They were deposited into these roles. Your social role completely changes. Your cultural encoding is now completely different. It’s not just that you have this new larvae to look after, you now have all of these words that you must take on and make a part of your being….If you are a mother you are supposed to be… nurturing, loving, emotional… self sacrificing.” (Humphreys, lecture) Rae is none of these things. She is “like a child, wanting attention.” (Pearson, 221) and manages to upset her sister with her ambivalent feelings and actions towards Theo. “Do you think you can just dump your child on people until it’s convenient for you to have her again?… She’s not my child-she’s yours. She needs you. She needs you to be a real mother to her…You’re not a good enough mother to be entirely on your own. You said yourself she needs the stability of staying here. I can’t take care of her but I want her in my life. I want to make sure she’s okay…When are you going to get it into your empty head that you have no choice? She’s your child! You chose to have her and you have to take care of her!” (Pearson, 227-228) She has been given the role of mother, although she will not accept it. Refusing that role makes others very, very angry, mainly because of the cultural significance of the mother. “The mother is the main caregiver… The strategy of Western patriarchal society is to use language and other social markers…In patriarchal society the mother must take on this role and if she doesn’t get it right it’s her fault. It’s her problem. That guilt is placed upon the child as well.” (Humphreys, lecture) Rae has refused to adapt to the role of the mother which she has been forced into. This causes stress, tension and instability in the family.
Willow and Twig is about two siblings going through the process of being adopted by their grandmother and being invited into their grandmother’s home. Willow and Twig’s mother does not want to give up her life, just like Rae. “Mum… she likes me to call her Angel…but she’s my mother.” (Willow and Twig, Little, 104) Willow wants her to take on the role of the mother, and so calls her Mum, even though Angel has not asked for the name and it was common for Angel to ask Willow to “‘Tell them you’re my little sister,’ she had said more than once. ‘I’m too young to have a kid your size.'” (Willow and Twig, Little, 10). The attachment that they have is complicated: “Her mother had said she loved them and Willow believed her. Angel could have had abortions or given them up for adoption the way she herself had been. But she had kept them. That showed she cared about them in her own way. Even so, whenever she left them with someone, she let herself forget about them until something went wrong. Then she had to be tracked down and told to take care of her kids.” (Willow and Twig, Little, 6) She is not prepared or willing to be placed in the role of mother, but she still recognizes that she is in that role, whether she wants to be or not. Willow replaces Angel as Twig’s mother-figure. She is present when Angel is absent, and so her attachment to her brother is very very strong. “From the moment Willow had held the small, slippery, naked baby boy, he had been hers. Before she even had him washed and wrapped in a towel, her mother had fallen asleep…’I took the baby and cleaned him off and wrapped him in a blanket. He screamed and screamed. Then Lou gave him something to make him sleep…Lou gave him a bit of the stuff whenever we fed him but she kept making it less… You can’t make a baby stop cold turkey…Angel couldn’t stand his screaming. So she said she’d go and…get help. I guessed she wouldn’t be back. Lou knew too. She tried to stop her. But one morning, we woke up and she was gone.” (Willow and Twig, Little, 105). Angel abandons them, while Willow tries to embody all the cultural significance that mothers should have for their children. “I looked after Twig as much as I could from the beginning. He was my brother and I knew they didn’t really want him. Nobody wanted him…but me.” (Willow and Twig, Little, 106). She has to take the place of her mother, because they need one, and she is the only person who can be depended upon. After being with several of their mother’s friends they “were returned to their mother along with a lecture about getting off the drugs and taking responsibility for her kids… Twig, uprooted and hurt, had driven his mother crazy. A couple of months later, Angel herself had handed them over ‘temporarily’ to Maisie. ” (Willow and Twig, Little, 73) Taking on the role of mother to Twig is important for both of their survivals. “We need to project in order to be complicit…So another way to say this is we are deposited into proper names. Like ‘mother’… You are deposited into that name…While they are trapped within the cultural encoding of mother/[child] they can’t move…” (Humphreys, lecture) At the same time, once they are safe, Willow has to learn how to let go. Several of her discussions with her grandmother are about her inability to distance herself away from that role. Her job has been to take care of Twig, and she has a hard time letting go.”Willow… struggled not to imagine Twig searching the house for her but she could not keep the scene from playing over and over inside her mind. ‘I’m going to take him to see the kittens across the road,’ Gram said as though she could see into Willow’s private thoughts. ‘And we’ll go to Sears and get him… some… trucks. And there’s lots of T.V. I’ll bring him with me to meet the bus…Twig…will be my one concern all day long.’ Willow felt the weight of worry inside her lift, the darkness lighten. Twig would be all right until she came back.” (Willow and Twig, Little, 160). She still has to be reassured by others that he depends on her. Her grandmother tells her that “He’s your boy, Willow, even though that’s a tall order for a girl your age. Nobody knows him as well as you and no one else can handle him the way you do.” (Willow and Twig, Little, 204). This follows the claim made in Northanger Abbey that “The mere habit of learning to love is the thing; and a teachableness of disposition in a young lady is a great blessing.” (Austen, 127). She teaches her brother how to act, and she is his caregiver. She has a hard time letting go because of this attachment they formed. “Love…particularly in psychology it means attachment and we must have attachment in order to develop and grow.” (Humphreys, lecture). Angel has to learn to form an attachment- she finally refers to herself as a mother when on the phone to Willow. “The husky, so familiar voice sounded far, far away. ‘…It’s me. Angel. Mum, I mean.'” (Willow and Twig, Little, 224) She has a hard time seeing herself as a mother, but finally calls herself one once she gives her children what they really need. “Angel… had agreed to sign papers giving her and her brother away… She and Twig would be safe. It was what she had wanted most in the world. And they were more than just safe; they were loved.” (Willow and Twig, Little, 218-219) She does what she believes is best for them, giving them a place of comfort with their grandmother, and a place of warmth and security. She is able to eventually recognize their needs and do what needs to be done to see that those needs are met.
As long as children are categorized, their parents will also have to face being judged by how they are performing the role of ‘mother’ that they are expected to. If they refuse to, are unwilling, or unable to fill that role, they are categorized as “bad mothers”. However, sometimes it may not be their fault. The first step however, in all these narratives, (except Will’s Garden) is for the mother to be complicit in her role by referring to herself as a mother. As long as the term is not applied to her, they are only seen as a substitute who can never make up for the loss their children go through. I think parents are trapped in the roles they have as much as the children. They need to be able to have the choice to accept or reject the parental roles as they see fit; and find someone who would want the job as a parent, without having to be judged for it.
IMAGES: (In order of appearance, Everything else in alphabetical order.)
- Anderson, Kim. A Recognition of Being: Reconstructing Native Womanhood. Toronto: Sumach, 2003. Print.
- Austen, Jane, and Claudia L. Johnson. Northanger Abbey ; Lady Susan ; The Watsons ; Sanditon. Ed. James Kinsley and John Davie. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2003. Print
- Hallett, Martin, and Barbara Karasek. Folk & Fairy Tales. 4th ed. Peterborough, Ont.: Broadview, 2002. Print.
- Little, Jean. The Belonging Place. Toronto: Puffin, 1998.
- Little, Jean. Willow and Twig. Toronto: Puffin, 2000.
- Maracle, Lee. Will’s Garden. Penticton, B.C.: Theytus, 2008.
- Montgomery, L. M. Anne of Green Gables. [Toronto]: Seal, 1996.
- Pearson, Kit. Awake and Dreaming. Toronto: Puffin, 1998.
- Bickford, Tyler. “Parenting, Work, and Values.” Web log post. Tyler Bickford WordPress. March 20 2013, Web. March 31 2013. <http://blog.tylerbickford.com/2013/03/20/parenting-work-and-values/>
- Hersch, Jessica “Gender Relationships: Salish Women’s roles” Web log post. A Journey of Resistance WordPress, 31 Mar. 2013. Web. 3 Apr. 2013. <http://jessicaherscheid8.wordpress.com/2013/03/31/gender-relationships-salish-womens-roles/>
- Huskies’ Adventures in Wonderland. “Mothers in Harry Potter (Fall 2012).” Web log post. WordPress. WordPress, Spring 2013. Web. 16 Mar. 2013. <http://huskiesinwonderland.wordpress.com/sample-posts/mothers-in-harry-potter/>.
- Jennpower. “The Good Wife” Web log post. What Doesn’t belong here? WordPress, 24 Mar. 2013. Web. 31 Mar. 2013. <http://whatdoesntbelonghere.wordpress.com/2013/03/24/the-good-wife/>
- Peter Pan-Your Mother and Mine(English). Prod. TwilightWander. YouTube. YouTube, 02 July 2008. Web. 04 Mar. 2013. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lFWc6ZwxXXI>.
- Humphreys, Sara. Class Lecture. Gender and Sexuality. Trent University. Oshawa. Ontario. March 21, 2013. “Visual rhetoric and the representation of sex and gender; decoding and encoding gender and sex.”
More reasons for why children’s books are banned. Also makes a good point about books being banned which are abusive to people… She also says to ban books is to ban learning.
Beyond the ethical considerations of telling people what they can or cannot read, just think of what would have been lost (and why) if book banning were easy. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. was banned by Island Trees, New York School Board in 1976 for being “just plain filthy.” It is widely regarded as Vonnegut’s most influential work and beloved by millions. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, her powerful and revealing autobiography was cited as “deviant” by the Alabama Textbook Committee. Maurice Sendak’s In the Night Kitchen, winner of the Caldecott Medal was removed from a Beloit, Wisconsin elementary school in 1985 for displaying nudity. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, a Newbery Medal…
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This is more of an apology and an explanation for my posts seeming so irregular. I hope to start to make it regular (about once a week) once my exams are finished. For now, here are my general rules for blogging.
- Don’t post when triggered.
So, I get triggered a lot. By silly things, stupid things. Can’t really and don’t want to get into it. When it happens I tend to get really angry and sad. Not a good thing to take it out on my blog or followers, so when it gets to be “one of those days” I stay off of WordPress. You can usually tell it’s one of those days if I’ve (a) posted a “trigger warning” on the previous post, or (b) Written something on twitter about being annoyed/scared etc. Basically, what I mean to say is- nobody should post if they are having a very very strong emotion about something which just happened. You don’t want your writing to be a reaction. If you’re extremely angry, don’t go online and blog about it, scream your loudest scream into your pillow. If you’re sad, watch a comedy, don’t write about it online; If having just experienced a strong wave of emotion: anger, sadness, fear, wait a while until you post- or you’ll be blurring your personal and your blog life so fast you won’t stop to think about it.
2. School comes first.
Well, it should… Sometimes I’m able to post in between my homework- I’ve got a four day weekend all term so that’s good. However, this is just research, school is for my future- My future is (although I do hate to admit it) more important than research. I’m also a huge procrastinator… WordPress is one of my lifesavers, as well as books, and Facebook from schoolwork. I need to learn how to put school first- that means WordPress and other things need to take a backseat. It’s sad, and I’m going to be bored and pounding my head on the wall while writing an essay about celebrities and another essay about slave narratives, graveyard poems, and using imaginative sympathy. But it has to get done. No anger here, just acceptance.
3. Spend more time interacting with the blogging community.
I’ve just found this out. Posting on your own blog should only be about 40 percent of your time spent on WordPress, reading other blogs, commenting on other blogs, and letting other people know that you like what they have to say is just as important. After all- if you use your voice- you should really listen to others too and let them know they’re being heard.
4. Go back regularly to your old posts to see if anything is out of date/irrelevant.
By that I mean fix broken links, get rid of videos that have been taken down by youtube- nothing is worse than seeing that screen which says “This video is marked private” or “This account has been terminated”. Go back to your work and scroll from the beginning, clicking on all the links as well; you don’t want to click on a link and find it doesn’t work anymore. I do a “clean out” about once every three months. If there are videos that don’t work, I take them down and either put in a video that does work, or stick a picture in there instead. Or sometimes, I just leave the space video and image-less. Nothing wrong with doing that. If there are links that don’t work, I try to find other sources and use those instead. This also goes for Pingbacks. If the owner of the site has taken their blog off, you’re going to want to get rid of the pingback, because it can be frustrating for your readers to be lead to nowhere.
Well, because of Rule #2, I think I’m going to be on hiatus/irregular posting for a few more weeks. I’ve got another blog I’m working on right now for another class, and I’ve got research, and homework, and exams….
Oh why can’t I just have a time turner like Hermione? If only Harry Potter were real.
This is my only post that is not academic, and therefore, my only one that doesn’t need a works cited. It’s kind of intimidating to switch between my “WordPress persona” and my “real persona” so to speak, but I just had to for this post. Hope to return soon… in a week or two…or three… maybe four.
Or if anybody does have a time turner handy lend it to me.
Great link in this post! And great read about fairy tales. Fairy tales truly are built around culture.
When Disney turns an old fairy tale like “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” into a movie, you can probably guess that they water down and dress up the original story to make it more friendly to modern audiences. What you may not realize is that stories like “Snow White” and “Beauty and the Beast” are actually ancient tales that have traveled across cultures and languages like a game of telephone. Or that along the way, the tellers put their own little twists on the tale.
Their insane, gut-wrenching, nightmarish twists.