Loading...

Adventures in Classical Children's Literature

Defoe's "Robinson Crusoe" and Baum's "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz"

Term Paper (Advanced seminar) 2007 24 Pages

English Language and Literature Studies - Literature

Excerpt

Table of contents

1. Introduction

2. Robinson Crusoe and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as classics of children’s literature

3. Towards a definition of “adventure”

4. The general development of adventures in children’s literature

5. Functions of adventures
5.1 Adventure as process of the hero’s self-discovery
5.2 Adventure as the hero’s school of assimilation
5.3 Entertainment of the reader
5.4 Compensatory function
5.5 Education of the reader
5.6 The hero as role model
5.6.1 Values and Virtues
5.6.2 Affirmation and challenge of social norms

6. The Hero

7. Conclusion

8. Bibliography

1. Introduction

Adventure is one of the most important topics in fictional children’s literature. This can easily be demonstrated by the great number of titles that contain the term. There are Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland or Defoe’s The Life and Strange Surprizing [sic] Adventures of Robinson Crusoe [1] just to name a few well-known examples. There is even an own literary subgenre devoted to adventure stories.

But why are adventures told? What are their functions in children’s literature besides pure entertainment? Provided that books of adventure stories are undoubtedly the most favoured among all children’s literature[2], there is surprisingly little specific material available on this topic. In this paper, two works will be examined to help bridging this gap: Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, “the story of a man who is thrown, after many perils and adventures, alone upon a desert island”[3] and L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, in which Dorothy, an orphaned girl, is carried to the Land of Oz in a cyclone.

This work will proceed in the following way: After a discussion in how far Robinson Crusoe and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz can be regarded as children’s literature, problems arising in treating the adventure concept are outlined. Then, the historic development of adventures in children’s literature is presented in a general overview. After this, the two works under examination are used to identify functions of adventures in general with special emphasis on children’s literature. Last but not least, the hero as central subject to literary adventures is given attention before summing up the results in a final conclusion. The fact that in this paper only two works can be analyzed exemplarily certainly entails a limitation of the functions that can be treated here. Nevertheless, some general functions of children’s literature will also be outlined.

2. Robinson Crusoe and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as classics of children’s literature

The reader might ask him- or herself[4] at this point, if the two works used for this paper are classics of children’s literature at all. Let us turn to this fundamental question before starting the analysis of adventure in the following chapters.

Children’s literature cannot easily be defined. “The concept of childhood shifts constantly from period to period, place to place, culture to culture.”[5] As the term ‘children’s literature’ is generally used as the superordinate term comprising literature for children as well as young adults[6], this use is applied in this paper as well. Still, if we include young adults, which works belong to children’s literature and which ones to adult literature? Whole books have been written in search of the dividing line. Many literary works such as Alice in Wonderland, The Hobbit or Harry Potter appeal to children and adults alike. This is also true for Robinson Crusoe and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. “Research shows that there are children of eleven already reading literature for adults.”[7] On the other hand, there are books that were especially written and/or published for children, which adults also enjoy reading. C.S. Lewis states on this matter: “I am almost inclined to set up as a canon that a children’s story which is enjoyed only by children is a bad children’s story.”[8] Hence, the two genres do not qualify as exclusive categories.

This means that a single work may be part of both children’s and adult literature. It can be concluded that “children’s literature is the literature which children choose to read.”[9]

Even though not originally intended for children, Robinson Crusoe has become a classic of children’s literature as young people have chosen to read it from its first publication until today. Shortly after it entered the market, it was included in reading lists for children. For example a list of recommendations for children under ten years of age, appended to John Ash’s manual of English grammar, that was published in 1766, names Robinson Crusoe in its section on books for amusement and imagination.[10]

Jean Jaques Rousseau, writing in Emile (1762), his treatise on the education of youth, argued that Crusoe was a primary text for children: the one book to which they should have access so they could learn through the experience of living a hero’s life.[11]

Likewise, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, together with its important film adaptations in 1939 and 1978, has reached “phenomenal popularity”[12] that has been lasting for more than a century since it was first published in 1900.

3. Towards a definition of “adventure”

The term adventure subsumes such a variety of associations that it might justly be called an empty expression that one cannot base scientific research upon.

Eggebrecht for example refers to adventure as an insubstantial concept if not regarded from a historic distance.13 It is true that the historic dimension carries a large potential for research. For this reason, the examination of samples in this paper will be integrated within the development of adventures in children’s literature in chapter four. But the analysis will be carried further to investigate the adventures in their own right. For this reason we need to depart from Eggebrecht’s point of view and find a more suitable adventure definition.

The enormous variety covered by the term “adventure” makes Eggebrecht call it insubstantial. At the same time, this variety presents the very core of the adventure concept. The idea of crossing boundaries that we link with adventure is also present in the term itself. If there were no fuzzy edges, no questions left to answer, no discoveries to be made in exploring the term, this is what would truly make the concept obsolete. There would be no adventure left in the concept itself.

Depending on the social and historical context in which a person exists, different events can be classified as adventures. While in the industrialized world a tent camp in a semi-natural environment may constitute an adventure, for tribes living in close touch with nature civilization may be just as exciting. Thus “adventures are precisely what few of us know from experience.”[14]

Adventurous actions or events often contain elements of surprise, risk, conflict, struggle or challenge. The protagonists may seek adventure actively or get involved by circumstances. Robinson Crusoe departs in a ship against the wish of his parents. But his departure is not completely due to his own free will. Crusoe argues that “there seemed to be something fatal in that propension of nature.”[15] He believes that his restlessness originates in his nature and that he is therefore not able to counteract. He cannot concentrate on anything else but is “bent upon seeing the World.”[16] While Crusoe at least initiates adventure himself, Dorothy’s adventures take their beginning by pure coincidence when she is carried to Oz in a cyclone.[17] Therefore it can be argued that natural forces trigger both heroes’[18] adventures.

Adventures are “journeys ‘into the unknown.’”[19] Thus a change of environment needs to take place to initiate adventures. While there are adventurers who encounter a different world in their dreams, both Dorothy and Robinson physically leave their familiar surroundings. In Crusoe’s times, the discovery of unknown places was still under way. Defoe could therefore use realistic surroundings for his hero’s adventures. “As terra incognita disappeared from European maps, writers of adventure stories retreated from realistic to fantastic, purely imaginary spaces.”[20] Today, mass tourism has additionally deprived realistic settings of their exotic character.

Dadurch, daß die Ferne in zu große Nähe gerückt ist, um noch abenteuerlich zu wirken, haben auch Expeditionen in ferne Länder nicht me]hr die Bedeutung für den jugendlichen Leser.[21]

In accordance to this, Baum’s Dorothy explores a fantastic world: The Land of Oz. This imaginary country is “cut off from all the rest of the world”[22] by surrounding deserts and therefore witchcraft and wizardry have been preserved there. Like Crusoe’s island, the Land of Oz “has never been civilized.”[23] Whereas Crusoe succeeds in settling humans on the island beyond the duration of his own stay and thereby initiates the civilizing process, Dorothy does not intervene that heavily. She contributes to civilizing the Land of Oz by defeating the evil Witches, but magic (impersonated by the good Witches) remains in the country upon her leave.

Whereas Ian Watt asserts that “adventure stories demand the absence of conventional social ties”[24] both Robinson and Dorothy have a home and a family. While Robinson leaves his parents on purpose and only returns after their death, social ties motivate Dorothy’s adventures in the Land of Oz. So she states right after her arrival: “we will go to the Emerald City and ask the great Oz how to get back to Kansas again.”[25] Only in the end of the story does she learn that the silver shoes she took from the Wicked Witch of the East in the beginning of her adventures have the power to carry her home.[26]

[...]


[1] This is the title of the first edition that was published in 1719. It was changed into Robinson Crusoe in later editions.

[2] Corinna Kehlenbeck, Auf der Suche nach der abenteuerlichen Heldin: weibliche Identifikationsfiguren im Jugendalter (Frankfurt, New York: Campus, 1996) 25.

[3] Virginia Woolf, “Robinson Crusoe”, Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, ed. Harold Bloom (New York: Chelsea House Publ., 1988) 7.

[4] For better readability, the female form is not in all cases asserted in this paper. However, men and women may feel addressed to the same degree.

[5] Peter Hunt, Children’s Literature: An illustrated History (Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 1995) ix.

[6] Torben Weinreich, Children’s Literature: Art or Pedagogy? (Fredericsberg: Roskilde University Press, 2000) 36.

[7] Torben Weinreich, Children’s Literature: Art or Pedagogy? (Fredericsberg: Roskilde University

Press, 2000) 36.

[8] Torben Weinreich, Children’s Literature: Art or Pedagogy? (Fredericsberg: Roskilde University Press, 2000) 98.

[9] Torben Weinreich, Children’s Literature: Art or Pedagogy? (Fredericsberg: Roskilde University Press, 2000) 36.

[10] Peter Hunt, Children’s Literature: An illustrated History (Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 1995) 1.

[11] Peter Hunt, Children’s Literature: An illustrated History (Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 1995) 43.

[12] Neil Earle, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” in American Popular Culture: Uneasy in Eden

(Lewiston et al: Edwin Mellen Press, 1993) ix.

[13] Harald Eggebrecht, Sinnlichkeit und Abenteuer: Die Entstehung des Abenteuerromans im 19. Jahrhundert (Berlin, Marburg: Guttadin und Hoppe, 1985) 36.

[14] Paul Zweig, The Adventurer (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1974) 3.

[15] Daniel Defoe, “Robinson Crusoe”, Daniel Defoe: Robinson Crusoe. An authoritative text, contexts, criticism, ed. Michael Shinagel (New York, London: Norton, 1994) 4.

[16] Daniel Defoe, “Robinson Crusoe”, Daniel Defoe: Robinson Crusoe. An authoritative text, contexts, criticism, ed. Michael Shinagel (New York, London: Norton, 1994) 6.

[17] L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Stuttgart: Reclam, 1994) 5-9.

[18] To avoid the term “heroine”, which is often used in the sense of a diminutive as explained in Pearson and Pope (1981, vii), their explicit use of “hero” for both sexes is taken over in this paper. 19 Richard Phillips, Mapping Men and Empire: A geography of adventure (London et al: Routledge, 1997) 1.

[20] Richard Phillips, Mapping Men and Empire: A geography of adventure (London et al: Routledge, 1997) 7.

[21] Corinna Kehlenbeck, Auf der Suche nach der abenteuerlichen Heldin: weibliche Identifikationsfiguren im Jugendalter ( Frankfurt, New York: Campus, 1996) 42.

[22] L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Stuttgart: Reclam, 1994) 15.

[23] L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Stuttgart: Reclam, 1994) 15.

[24] Ian Watt, „Individualism and the Novel“, Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, ed. Harold Bloom (New York: Chelsea House Publ., 1988) 16.

[25] L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Stuttgart: Reclam, 1994) 21.

[26] L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Stuttgart: Reclam, 1994) 183.

Details

Pages
24
Year
2007
ISBN (eBook)
9783640132430
ISBN (Book)
9783668156104
File size
557 KB
Language
English
Catalog Number
v113150
Institution / College
Christian-Albrechts-University of Kiel – Englisches Seminar
Grade
1,3
Tags
Adventures Classical Children Literature Young Adults Definition Historical Survey

Author

Share

Previous

Title: Adventures in Classical Children's Literature