Ideologies Surrounding The Concept Of A Child And Childhood

2278 words - 9 pages

The above statement is incomplete, as Hunt not only states that the writer has an idea of a child but in the concluding part, he states that the reader also has their own assumptions and perceptions of a child and childhood. Therefore, in order to consider Hunt’s statement this essay will look at the different ideologies surrounding the concept of a child and childhood. The manner in which writers inform the reader about their ideas of childhood through literary devices and content concluding with what the selected set books state about aspects of childhood in particular identity and gender. The set books used are Voices In The Park by Browne, Mortal Engines by Reeve and Little Women by Alcott to illustrate different formats, authorial craft and concepts about childhood. For clarity, the page numbers used in Voices In The Park are ordinal (1-30) starting at Voice 1.
The dictionary definition of a child is a young human being, an immature person and offspring (Oxford, 1976). This idea is reflected in Mead’s idea ‘that children to adults are representative of something weak and helpless in need of protection, supervision, training, models, skills, beliefs and character’ (Montgomery et al, 2003, p vii). The emphasis is on the ideology of the child by adults rather than the size or mentality raising the notion that a child and therefore childhood is not just a biological concept but also an ideological one (Falconer, 2009). This ideology creates a problem in Children’s Literature as adults write, publish and purchase books with each set of adults having their own ideas about childhood. Hunt hints at the complications of differing perception of childhood in his statement that it ‘changes through time, place, commercialism, politics and even with individuals’ (Hunt, 2009a, p23). These changes in perceptions often correlate with the changes in culture and society although different ideologies exist in unison often mutating rather than replacing each other. Thus, the concepts surrounding childhood are a complex, social construction and do not actually reflect or represent the actual lives of children.
The main socially constructed ideologies are Puritan, tabula rasa and those of the Romantic Movement. The Puritan viewpoint is that children are born both ignorant and sinful. The father or male is seen as God’s representative with the mother as the church and children as the obedient congregation (Hunt, 2009b). These ideas in conjunction with the belief that education was for all showed that through education and adult discipline sinful children could be enlightened (Montgomery, 2003). In contrast, Locke rejects this idea of sinful children stating instead that they are tabula rasa in essence an empty vessel awaiting the correct adult instruction. There was a great deal of debate as to the type of instruction during Locke’s time but he advocated moderation in all things with nothing to stimulate a child’s imagination. In effect, the perception of a...

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