Shifts In The Treatment Of Children During The Virtorian Era

502 words - 3 pages

Perceptions and treatment of children shifted from Victorian ideas of children born as natural sinners and idioms such as "be seen but keep still" and "spare the rod and spoil the child" to the Edwardian ideas of cherishing a child as innocent, embracing the quality of childhood, and viewing children as their own category of development as opposed to small adults. The Victorian Era often employed children at industries starting from a very young age to work full shifts, while the Edwardian era reformed child labor laws. One such law prevented children from working after 9pm, perhaps one reason why the original Peter Pan was played by a woman. Education for children was transforming into a right for everyo ...view middle of the document...

Plays and literature reflected the shift from Victorian perceptions to Edwardian viewpoints. Victorian novels, had they any children, followed the child into adulthood. Jane in Jane Eyre and Pip in Great Expectations are a couple examples where the main characters begin as children and quickly grow up, partly from their desire to "escape from childhood's vulnerability and victimization" (Gavin and Humphries 11). Even in stories such as Oliver Twist, children partake in real, not playful, adult activities; they are not protected or excused from financial struggles and other dangers found within the world. Victorian novels were written explicitly for adult readership. Children were not considered as having different interests, nor were authors much concerned about the interests of children readers. The Edwardian Era, by contrast, focused their literature to children and adults alike. Instead of children growing up and always existing in a grown up world, children and adults were often separated. Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan are two common examples of children protagonists who do not grow up and are not troubled much with real world matters. Neither did children in Edwardian serve as an example of "social moralism" as they had been in Victorian novels by writers such as Charles Dickens. Edwardian fiction may set up an ideal vision of childhood but at the same time deconstructs and demythologizes it, moving towards a heightened realism in the portrayal of children" (ibid. 5).


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