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Hawthorne's Literature for Children
  • Laura Laffrado, Western Washington University
In this intriguing study, Laura Laffrado examines in depth a long-neglected but significant aspect of Nathaniel Hawthorne's literary career: his writings for children. In turning to children's literature, Hawthorne endeavored to transform the prevailing practices of the genre by providing to young people books that were both well-crafted and truthful about history, experience, faith, and the threats to innocence in a world of rationalism and materialism. The writer's ventures into children's literature began in 1841 with a series of historical stories, Grandfather's Chair, Famous Old People, and Liberty Tree; these were followed in 1842 by Biographical Stories for Children. The author's last children's books, A Wonder Book for Boys and Girls (1851) and Tanglewood Tales (1853), were collections of stories based on classical myths. Through an intensive analysis of these six books, Laffrado develops a new biographical and intertextual perspective on Hawthorne's art and reenvisions the trajectory of his literary career. These works, she argues, reflect the concerns of his major writings, as well as those of his culture. Evident in his children's books, Laffrado shows, are Hawthorne's despair at artistic failure, his concerns about a mass culture and a United States divided by sectional differences, and his ambiguous attitudes toward gender relations. Laffrado also explores how changes in narrator, subject matter, and framing devices in these works reflect stages in Hawthorne's personal life--from the early period when he was a financially struggling bachelor and unsuccessful author to his days as the happily married, successful writer of A Wonder Book and, finally, to his later years, when the losses of his life were reflected in Tanglewood Tales.
Publication Date
July, 1992
University of Georgia Press
Citation Information
Laura Laffrado. Hawthorne's Literature for Children. (1992)
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