Zoo After Hours: King Of the Rock Edition

I am writing this on my phone so if my grammar sucks or the formatting looks weird – whoops 😁.

This week on Detroit Zoo After Hours I invite you to sit back and laugh at all of the animals who think they are way cooler than they are.


Here we have our deer friend who refused to climb down from his stump throne even when his buddies came over for a visit. 


The prairie dogs, too, desired respect from their subjects. As you can see in the second picture, the other prairie dogs were definitely paying attention…


Finally, our bear from end decided that he wanted to get a drink from the more instead of the pool behind him. He put in quite the effort to make it happen but only managed to get the tip of his paw wet.

This is him getting frustrated:


And, finally, a picture of one of our extremely elusive beavers. They are almost never seen, which stemmed the joke that the beaver exhibit is actually a lie and there aren’t any beavers in it whatsoever. But – in a very rare instance – I got some awesome photo and video of our pretty lady!


I also got a video of her coming to see me at the window. I must ask you to please ignore the high-pitched squeakiness of my voice as I tried to coax her toward me. Just pretend I’m not talking đŸ˜¶. 

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Bonus: two short videos of Chester and Miranda, our two bush dogs, as they play with their ball. 

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That’s it for this week’s after hours! I look forward to shar big more photos with you next Friday (pretend today is still Friday). Hopefully, the wolves will be out next time!

-KP

A Day At the Zoo: Sleepytime Edition

Let me start this post by apologizing for the craptastic quality of some of these photos. It was crazy sunny today, so I couldn’t see what I was taking pictures of. As I was scrolling through to edit some of the photos, I realized there were a lot of photos of animal enclosure walls and not of the actual animals themselves – oops😀

One of the best parts about working at the zoo is evening access. When people clear out of the zoo, the animals can finally take a breather away from the noise and bustle of the public.

Basically, it is immediate snooze-ville.

 

Here, for example, is the bear cat curled up in the shade. It’s a blurry picture so it’s kind of hard to tell where his features are. (The curled thing sticking up is his ear.)

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The buffalo, too, were all curled up together in the biggest piece of shade they could find.

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If you couldn’t tell at this point that I was in the American Animals section of the zoo, then may I introduce Frank and Earl, our most patriotic cast members…

I feel it is only fair to the zoo that I mention the fact that their names are not actually Frank and Earl. I don’t know what their names are yet, but I just felt like they looked like a Frank and an Earl.

Next would theoretically be pictures of grizzly bears that I took, except I only got pictures of walls because it was too sunny and I was blindly shooting overly zoomed-in pics. Here is one blurry (attempted) photo of a grizzly bear hugging a rock, and an equally bad photo of a very sleepy grizz.

I couldn’t decide which pictures I wanted to save for last, so in the end, my selfish desire for wanting you to think I could take a semi-decent photo won out. But in terms of the best content, here are my favorite pics from the evening:

When viewed in sequential order, you can see the progress of prairie dog cuddles❀

And, lastly, but certainly not least, I give you lemur swag.

Clearly ain’t no one got more swagger. (He even crossed his legs!)

I told you there would be some zoo pictures eventually!

As I get more acclimated to my internship I will make more of an effort to go out and take pictures for you guys. My goal is to hopefully get some really good pics of our wolves – they were hiding today – and to figure out some of the animals’ names. Today was crazy hot, so I didn’t really stop long enough to read any of the signs.

And just for amusement’s sake, I am including below animal pictures from my own house. This is the hawk, Tony, who lives in my backyard and loves the bird bath, and the ridiculously brave, sunbathing red squirrel who decided to have a stare-down with him the other day.

Again, the pictures aren’t the highest quality, but I tried!

-KP

 

Tips For New/Young Writers

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I want to preface this post by saying that these are tips/advice that I wish someone would have given me as a young writer (or as someone just starting out writing). Because these come from my own personal experience, some of the tips may seem random or odd, but I thought I would include them anyway. I don’t know, maybe you will be able to relate, or even apply them to your own life?

For simplicity’s sake, I’m just going to put these in bullet point format. For each point I will explain a little bit about what I mean/why it’s important.

#1: Write as much and as often as possible, but try to do so in a regular, scheduled way. 

I will openly admit that I am someone who gets easily distracted. The internet is both my best friend and my worst enemy; something I think a lot of people can probably relate to. Because of this, I have a very short attention span. The best way for me to right as often as I want/need to is for me to set up a regular schedule (i.e. everyday from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m.) However, I am still working on this. I do not write everyday and it has been making my skin itch recently.

#2: Pay more attention to your grammar classes.

This is pretty self-explanatory. I suck at grammar now; I mean, not too badly. I am competent at grammar, but I find myself looking stuff up semi-frequently. Copy-editing is not my favorite.

#3: Don’t feel like you have to quietly accept it when people say, “oh, English… What are you going to do with that? Be a teacher? You know, you won’t make much money doing that. You might want to major in something more practical.”

English happens to be one of the most diverse majors. For the purpose of this post, I’m including all forms of English and writing majors in this. Critical analysis, something that is essential in the English major, helps individuals think big picture as well as acknowledging the importance of every small detail. There are English graduates from my university who are currently employed by large tech companies, the FBI, and working in international affairs (along with more traditional English jobs like working in publishing.) English majors are problem solvers and broad thinkers, and – though teachers are very important people and I have nothing but respect for them – English majors are not only limited to teaching.

#4: GET INVOLVED YOU BIG DUMMY!!!

When I was young (around 8 or 9 probably) I thought that I was going to be a veterinarian. Turns out, that was a horrible idea for me since I am allergic to about 99% of all small household pets. However, I didn’t really think that being a writer was something I could feasibly do until I was about 16. That is a roughly 8 year gap where I loved to write but was just kind of…existing? I wish someone would have told me that A) being a writer is something that you can do  as a future career and lifestyle, and B) being active in the writing community now will be really beneficial for you in the long run.

Simply writing is not the only way to be involved in the writing community. Websites like figment.com and nanowrimo.com are great ways to get involved with other writers and have people give you feedback on your work. National November Writing Month – the program – takes place during the month of November (as the name would have you think) but there are forums for both adults and young writers that are open year-round. I’m not sure what the age cap is for Figment, but to the best of my knowledge it is 13 and up. I really wish I had known about these things prior to being in my late teens; it is a great way to meet people with similar styles/taste as you, as well as people whose strengths are in other genres/subjects.

#5: School doesn’t have to be boring. Well… not always! 

Is there a Creative Writing club in your school? Yes? Join in! Creative Writing clubs are a great way to not only get people to read and critique your own work, but to be able to read other people’s writing. This can introduce you to new styles, genres, and really fun voices that you might not have read before. After all, the better reader you are, the better writer you are.

Your school does not have a Creative Writing club? Make one! I realize that the arts are the first thing to be cut in terms of clubs and extracurriculars (a bunch of bullshit if you ask me – will you have sports later in life? No, probably not. Besides, athletes’ careers tend to be pretty short-lived. Arts stay with you forever. Just saying.) However, if you find a teacher or professor willing to be the club mentor, you can pitch it to your school that it will not require any financial backing; really all you need is a classroom for about 1-2 hours after school. I guess it’s possible that I am making this process seem more simple than it is, but I don’t think so. The best part about Creative Writing is that it is super casual. You really just need a place to gather and write.

Are you new to writing but not to life? (Ehem, that was a weird way of asking if you are an adult. Sorry.) Try forming a writers group in your area. You don’t necessarily need to create one; just Google some in your city. A lot of libraries have groups like this that get together and discuss books and writing. These can be super helpful and a great way to meet people! Sorry if that sounded super cheesy and clichĂ© (because it totally did.)

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I hope this post was somewhat helpful. Like I said, these are things that I wish I would have known when I was younger and just starting out. I have a feeling there will be another post like this coming in the future when my brain isn’t so mushy. For some reason I have been struggling to keep myself motivated to do work this week – thanks for nothing summer.

Talk to you soon!

-KP

Working At the Zoo: The Intro to My Story

Today was my first official day working as a volunteer/intern at the Detroit Zoo and I am super excited for what’s to come! I even have a picture I.D. and everything; I’m so official. I don’t have any pictures yet because a lot of the work we did today was orientation and getting  established with the zoo’s online system to track our hours- you know, all the really fun stuff. However, do expect tons of pictures to come!!!

From what I saw, the brand new wolf exhibit is my favorite. I know a lot of people are really excited about the penguin exhibit (and it’s definitely worth being excited about!) but I absolutely love wolves – they’re my favorite wild animal – and the two new wolves at the Detroit Zoo are gorgeous. There is one male, solid black, and one female, solid white, and I believe they are a mated couple. I can’t pronounce they’re names quite yet, but I am so excited to potentially do work with them.

What I will be doing in the near future (and I’m not sure how much of this I’m allowed to share, so sorry if some of this is a bit vague) is writing short film scripts for educational documentary videos about Antarctica. In the process of preparing for the new penguin exhibit, the zoo put together a team that traveled to Antarctica to learn all about the penguins, the nature, and what needed to be done here in Detroit to make the best possible exhibit for the animals and for the public. That being said, I will be working on educational materials for both the penguin center and for Sphere of Science exhibit (which, to be completely honest, I know nothing about – it’s been a while since I’ve been to the zoo!)

A lot of what I am going to be doing will require some pretty heavy research as I go through all of the documents collected by the zoologists and staff who traveled to Antarctica. I love research (because I’m a nerd like that) so I’m really pumped to get started!

I will try my absolute best to keep you guys up-to-date on some of the things that I’m doing, stories about the animals, pictures, etc. Like I said, I’m not sure what exactly I’m allowed to share as of yet, so I will have to talk to my supervisor about that first. At the very least, definitely expect stories and pictures of the animals!

If you are from the Detroit area and can make it to the zoo, take a look at the series of holes in the grass barrier outside of the kangaroo exhibit. Those are groundhog burrows – apparently they have a little underground city going with all of the tunnels they’ve dug. They have also made their way into the prairie dog exhibit, and sometimes they decide to try to hide among them. So, if you happen to be at the prairie dog exhibit and notice an animal a little bit too large to really fit in, that’s a groundhog going through an identity crisis🙂

I  also learned that the majority of the animals that come to the Detroit Zoo are rescues in need of rehabilitation or species that are severely endangered in the wild. For example, did you know that there are only around 3,000 zebras left in the wild? As I learn more about the animals, I will definitely share their stories with you!

I will stop here because I don’t want this post to be too long. Updates to come later!

-KP

 

 

About My Thesis

To give a short synopsis, my thesis is on the evolution of morality in children’s fantasy literature, starting with Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and ending with Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (1997). When interwoven with historical context as well as critical analysis of the texts, my thesis examines how morality in children’s fantasy lit has evolved from something that largely centered around manners and politeness – actions that were communally driven – to something that is far more independent; a personal experience for every child that emphasizes good in the defeat of evil.

That’s the super short version.

I originally decided what I wanted to write my thesis on about two years ago, just before leaving to study abroad in England, where I was then able to do research using grant money, reading about my chosen authors and novels. Initially, my thesis was going to be about the evolution of character, theme, and morality in children’s fantasy literature, but unfortunately this project grew far too large for an undergraduate thesis (it looked like it was going to take the shape of a dissertation instead!) So, in order to focus my thesis, I picked the topic I was most interested in and which I had done the most research on. Most importantly, however, I wanted to choose the topic that I had discovered had the fewest critical analysis done on it; something I felt that, by doing my own analysis,could be beneficial to the literary community as a whole.

Thus, I selected morality.

I have always been interested in how the idea of morality has been understood by people over the eras, and the changing ways people have attempted to teach younger generations about “what is moral.” I put that in quotes because what is considered morally important for some people may be very different for others – a truth that is equally prevalent in today’s society as it was in the past.

While studying abroad in Oxford, England, I was able to utilize the library at Brasenose College to explore the authors I had chosen as well as to direct my research in a more specific manner. This led me to discovering a couple of things: the importance of manners in relation to morality in the late 19th century, and how extremely this changed over the course of 130+ years. I won’t go into too much detail because then I would just be reciting my thesis to you, but my research at Brasenose steered me in a new direction. The question then became: in what ways did morality shift from being largely defined by politeness, and what prompted this change?

The greatest portion of my analysis was done through my own readings of the seven texts I chose (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, The Little Princess, Peter Pan, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Charlotte’s Web, Bridge to Terabithia, and Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone). I read each of the books several times and derived my arguments through my own interpretations of the works, while simultaneously incorporating historical influence. I also read some other scholarly analyses on my chosen texts and applied some of them to my own research.

Blah, blah, blah.

Basically, there was a lot of reading!

After having to narrow down my thesis and make it more specific, the next challenge I faced was giving my thesis historical context in a way that did not distract from my analysis of the texts. Rather, I needed to incorporate it in a way that made these changes in morality more understandable. It took me two entire revisions of my thesis to interweave these revisions in a way that read fluidly with my analysis.

My suggestion for anyone who is attempting to write a thesis with a similar subject matter and/or format is to keep historical context in mind when you are writing your first draft. It wasn’t that I left it out completely, but it took my mentor (an English professor at my university) to point out that the significance of historical context needed to play an even larger role in my thesis. For me, I think that I became too absorbed in my own analysis of the books to remember that they needed to be contextualized in the real world.

Huh, a writer getting too wrapped up in a fictional universe? How odd…

The actual writing of my thesis was another struggle. Why? I think it was because subconsciously I was intimidated by the task of writing something so large that needed to encompass so many things. My thesis was also a requirement for my graduation from the Honors College and I would have to give a presentation on it at the end of my final semester. I’m not really one for public speaking, and definitely not for boring and/or disappointing others, so I think this was probably weighing on my mind a little bit too.

In the end, I found the easiest thing to do was to set a schedule and small deadlines for myself. I would write the introduction by this date, the first chapter by this date, etc. (I knew my thesis was going to be chaptered because of the wide range in time, but there are a lot of undergraduate theses that are not chaptered.) I found this to be a really efficient way to do things.

Also, another tip: keep track of what references you are citing and what ones you are referencing as you go – keep these in separate lists! This will be a lot easier than trying to separate them all out at the end.

I did most of my writing at my university’s library, which worked really well for me because I’m really easily distracted when it comes to things like YouTube, Netflix and Tumblr. Basically, I like anything that I can pretend I’m only “sort of” paying attention to while working, but in actuality I’m only barely working while mostly paying attention to something else that I find more entertaining. This makes my production level very low. Going to the library (without headphones!) allowed me to get rid of these distractions and really focus on my work.

Overall, I really enjoyed this project and I am proud of the result. Although, my hypercritical editor-self is probably going to want to rip it apart and rewrite it in two month’s time. What can you do?

I am going to leave a contact box below so feel free to ask me if you have any questions about your own academic writing, tips for academic writing or research, or undergraduate theses in general!

Best of writing to you all❀

-KP

Thesis Post #5: Works Cited & Referenced

Works Cited

Barrie, J.M. Peter Pan. New York: Barnes & Noble, 2005. Print.

Burnett, Frances Hodgson. A Little Princess. Lexington: Maestro Reprints, 2013. Print.

Carroll, Lewis. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. New York: Infinity, 2005. Print.

Griffith, John. “Charlotte’s Web: A Lonely Fantasy of Love.” Children’s Literature 8.1 (1980): 111-17. Web.

Kirk, Connie Ann. “Reading Harry Potter: Critical Essays, and Re-Reading Harry Potter (review).” Rev. of Reading Harry Potter: Critical Essays, Re-Reading Harry Potter. Children’s Literature Association Quarterly 28.4 (2003): 252-53. Print.

Lewis, C.S. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. New York: HarperTrophy, 2002. Print.

Melton, Brian. “The Great War and Narnia: C.S. Lewis as Soldier and Creator.”Mythlore 30.1-2 (2011): 123. Web.

Misheff, Sue. “Beneath the Web and Over the Stream: The Search for Safe Places in Charlotte’s Web and Bridge to Terabithia.” Children’s Literature in Education 29.3 (1998): 131-41. Web.

“Morality, n.” Home : Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press, 2016. Web. 27 Feb. 2016.

Neumeyer, Peter F. “E.B. White.” American Writers for Children, 1900-1960 22 (1983): 333-50. Dictionary of Literary Biography. Web.

Orford, Pete. “J.K. Rowling (31 July 1965 – ).” Twenty-First-Century British Novelists 377 (2016): 250-57. Dictionary of Literary Biography. Web.

Paterson, Katherine. Bridge to Terabithia. New York: HarperTrophy, 2003. Print.

Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. London: Bloomsbury, 2001. Print.

White, E. B. Charlotte’s Web. New York: HarperCollins, 2012. Print.

Whited, Lana A. The Ivory Tower and Harry Potter: Perspectives on a Literary Phenomenon. Columbia: U of Missouri, 2002. Print.

Zipes, Jack David, ed. The Norton Anthology of Children’s Literature: The Traditions in English. New York: W.W. Norton, 2004. Print.

 

Works Referenced

Chaston, Joel D. “The Other Deaths in Bridge to Terabithia.” Children’s Literature Association Quarterly 16.4 (1991): 238-41. Web.

Davidoff, Leonore, and Catherine Hall. Family Fortunes: Men and Women of the English Middle Class, 1780-1850. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987. Print.

Fisher, Bonnie E. “Social Influences on the Writing of Marion Dane Bauer and Katherine Paterson.” Language Arts 76.6 (1999): 517-24. Web.

Graner, Emma D. “Dangerous Alice: Travel Narrative, Empire, and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” CEA Critic 76.3 (2014): 252-58. Web.

Herzog, Ricky. “Sissies, Dolls, and Dancing: Children’s Literature and Gender Deviance in the Seventies.” The Lion and the Unicorn 33.1 (2008): 60-76. Web.

Lehr, Susan S., ed. Beauty, Brains, and Brawn: The Construction of Gender in Children’s Literature. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2001. Print.

“Literary Themes Coming of Age.” Literary Articles. Literary Articles, 19 Aug. 2012. Web. 28 Feb. 2016.

Marshall, Elizabeth. “Stripping for the Wolf: Rethinking Representations of Gender in Children’s Literature.” Reading Research Quarterly 39.3 (2004): 256-70. Web.

Mitchell, Sally. Daily Life in Victorian England. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1996. Print.

Thesis Post #4: Conclusion

All seven novels analyzed in this thesis demonstrate an evolution of morality, both for individual characters as well as within the genre of children’s fantasy literature when these texts are united as a whole. Starting with Victorian morality and characters like Alice and Sara who demonstrate a consciousness of proper societal practices and behaviors, both Carroll and Burnett portray the girls in such a way that they do not fully adhere to these practices, or rather, are independent of them. Alice, an example of a typical upper-class Victorian child, finds herself alone in Wonderland. This is not surprising due to the fact that in upper-class Victorian culture, the children are often kept separate from their parents, either being physically kept in a different part of the home like the nursery or sent away to places like boarding schools where their primary care is given by another, usually a non-parent adult figure.

This Victorian trait of separation is true in the stories of both Alice, who is physically kept separate from her family in Wonderland, and Sara, whose father sends her to boarding school in England. However, in both novels the child characters manipulate their settings in order to grow or mature independently. Alice claims power for herself in Wonderland when she stands up to the Red Queen, something which strays from the stereotypically “proper” behavior of Victorian girls, and by having her grow larger at the end of the novel, Carroll demonstrates a literal growth in her character. Similarly, in the world of her boarding school, Sara’s use of imagination manipulates the space around her, allowing her to be a princess even in the confines of her destitution. Just as Alice differs from the “proper” Victorian child, as does Sara in her fluctuating social status. Though still an orphan, by the end of the novel Sara’s wealth has returned, giving her a social status higher than Miss Minchin who has treated her so poorly, resulting in the social destruction of both Miss Minchin and the school. Though Miss Minchin is an adult, Sara’s social power is one that separates her from the traditional Victorian power structure of adult and child. In the end, both Carroll and Burnett utilize their child characters’ lack of parents or parental supervision—something not unfamiliar to the traditions of the upper-class Victorians—to promote the growth and independence of Alice and Sara as individual selves. In this way, both female characters are able to experience moral growth that is separate from the societal expectations of the Victorian era; something which is largely influenced by the manipulation of the fantastic second-world that exists in each of the novels.

Barrie, too, demonstrates a separation from the social expectations of the late Edwardian era in Peter Pan. Barrie blends character traits of both the middle and upper classes in his depiction of the Darling family. The family is rather close, something Barrie expresses in his portrayal of Wendy’s love of sharing her mother’s jewelry and knowing where Mr. Darling’s medicine is kept, and yet the Darlings have both a nursery in their house and a nanny to take care of their children. Closeness of family is a trait commonly attributed with middle-class Victorian families as they could not afford to keep a nanny on staff. Barrie mocks this, however, through his use of Nana, the Darling’s nanny who also happens to be a Newfoundland dog. Although the family has both a nursery and a nanny, neither of these things can be taken seriously due to the ridiculousness of their nature. Thus, the family’s status is questionable. Barrie’s depiction of the Darling family is demonstrative of the shift of the Edwardian period away from its Victorian predecessor. Unlike in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland or A Little Princess where it is clear what class status both girls possess through their reference to cultural norms (making it easier to detect when they depart from these norms), the Darling family is one that blends the moral and familial traits of both the upper and middle classes, confusing the reader’s understanding of which class’ morals they should be expected to follow.

This is something that is also expressed in Wendy’s desire to return home after her experiences in Neverland. Although she is a child who has grown up in a household that does keep the children partially removed from the parents (due to the physical separation of the nursery from the rest of the house), Wendy expresses pity for her parents upon realizing that she can no longer remember them. In the end, she actively desires to return home rather than stay young forever in Neverland. Wendy’s acknowledgement of the real-world consequences of her actions while in the fantastic realm demonstrates her growth as a character, and this directly relates to Barrie’s characterization at the beginning of the novel. Without the contradictory elements that make up the Darling family’s dynamic, the moral growths of the children in Neverland would not be able to take place as neither Wendy or her brother’s would feel the pull to return home that they do due to the closeness of their family ties.

As explored earlier in this essay, a shift in morality is also apparent in C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, where the four Pevensie children face moral challenges that stimulate their own growth as individuals and propel them toward adulthood. The coming-of-age subgenre, although present beforehand, increased in prevalence after the turn of the 20th century. Lewis’ choice to merge this subgenre with his work of children’s fantasy literature is interesting when his history with war is taken into account. The influence of Lewis’ participation in World War I on The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is unknown; however, parallels can be drawn between the innocence lost in war and the forced growth that many soldiers experienced, and the moral growth of the Pevensie children (Melton). The scenes of war in Narnia are often—if not entirely—depicted with clear divisions between those who are good and those who are bad. In the real world this is often not the case; however, it is this divide that allows the Pevensie children to grow in “goodness.” This particularly applies to Edmund whose initial introduction to Narnia was through the White Witch, who exposed his more selfish and evil characteristics. There is an evolution for Edmund’s character in particular that forces him to acknowledge his own faults and redeem himself in the eyes of Aslan, his siblings, and the reader. Whether or not Lewis intended to draw moral parallels between the war in Narnia and his own experiences in World War I, the two share the general idea of a progression of growth.

During a time closely proceeding an event of worldwide strife, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe provides a fantastic world in which the barriers between good and evil are very clear, and there is no doubt for the characters or the reader who is “good.” This clear divide is something which is desired in war but often not achievable, as “good” and “bad” are typically muddled; a truth that Lewis may well have known, and thus created a world where this is not so. Just like Alice, Sara, and Wendy before them, the Pevensie children also reject the real-world setting of their novel; most notably Lucy, when she refuses to question the goodness of Aslan and the righteousness of the fight against the White Witch. Both Peter and Susan also demonstrate these same qualities later in the novel when they do not hesitate to fight on behalf of Aslan and Narnia in order to defeat the evil witch queen. Unlike the turmoil the child characters were experiencing in the real-world of the novel (as they are implicitly sent to the English countryside in order to escape bombings in London which took place in World War II), Lucy, Susan, and Peter are able to escape the confusion of the war in the “real” setting of their narrative and, rather, take part in a war with clearly marked sides. Edmund, too, eventually joins the side for good and redeems himself. In this way, all four characters are able to progress toward adulthood with a positive moral growth that stems from their choice for good.

Charlotte’s Web and Bridge to Terabithia, also texts in the coming-of-age subgenre, have parallels to their authors’ own lives, reflecting the moral growth of their characters. In 1938, E.B. White’s move from New York City to rural Maine greatly influenced the setting in Charlotte’s Web in which nature is emphasized as a haven for both character growth and the fantastic (Neumeyer). White was known to love the privacy and seclusion of his farm; a seclusion which is necessary in Charlotte’s Web as the barn acts as a fantastic “other-realm” for Fern in her growth as a character. A large portion of Fern’s individualized growth in the novel, though a concern for her mother, takes place in part due to her ability to communicate with the animals in her uncle’s barn and witness them as her friends. The unusualness of her interactions with the animals in terms of what is “normal” outside of the barn (animals that do not talk) is what sets Fern apart as a character who, in her own way, rejects the traditional setting of her reality. At the same time, the seclusion of Fern’s experiences in the barn also makes Fern’s transition closer to adulthood at the end of the novel more prominent. White’s fascination with nature and its influence on relationships—something which is demonstrated by the rural setting of the barn and the friendships Fern builds because of it—makes her transition toward adulthood even more obvious when she chooses to stray from these friendships (Neumeyer). When Fern chooses to leave Wilbur at the fair in order to play with her male friend Henry, she is actively choosing to leave the isolation of the barn in order to partake in the real world. Her interest in Henry—or boys in general—indicates her growth from childhood to adulthood. Fern rejects the barn in order to mature in the real world.

Similarly, Jess’ relationship to Leslie in Bridge to Terabithia instigates his own transition toward adulthood while in a world that differs from the normal reality of the setting. Paterson’s novel, one which loosely follows the drowning of her son’s childhood best friend, delineates a world in which the main character Jess is uncomfortable with himself. Leslie’s demonstration of imagination eventually influences Jess in a positive manner, allowing him to forgive his own fears. The traditional setting of this novel, set in the southern United States, is itself a limit that defines the stereotypical roles of both Jess and Leslie; roles they each break when they become the king and queen of their imagined world Terabithia. Paterson claims to have wanted to build a world in which the grief and self-exploration of her child characters can be experienced authentically (Misheff). At the end of the novel, Jess’ moral growth in terms of his self-actualization and ability to perceive himself as strong stem naturally from his experiences with Leslie. This may be attributed to the novel based on the authenticity of Paterson’s portrayal of her real-life experiences. Rather than submit to his grief at the loss of his friend, Jess is able to appreciate the lessons Leslie taught him during their friendship, and so was able to develop in moral maturity.

Both in Charlotte’s Web and in Bridge to Terabithia, Fern and Jess, like the other child characters examined in this thesis, are able to separate themselves from their settings in a way that allows them to grow morally. Fern learns lessons of morality and friendship in the fantastic second-world of her uncle’s barn through the conversations she holds and observes with Charlotte and Wilbur. These lessons then allow her to explore the adult “real” world of the novel while growing as a character which is demonstrated through her experiences in the barn; a place that is both rural and removed, allowing Fern to interact with nature in an environment free from social restrictions. Jess, too, demonstrates a growth in his character when he welcomes his sister to Terabithia at the end of Bridge to Terabithia. Rather than allowing May Belle to succumb to her fears, Jess explains (in a way that is opposite of his character traits in the beginning of the novel) that one should not be ashamed of his or her fears. Like Fern, Jess is able to utilize the lessons he learns in Terabithia and transfer them to his experiences in the real world, demonstrating an individual maturation of morality.

Lastly, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, just as its predecessors (particularly The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) in this thesis have shown, also depicts a conflict between good and evil that results in the positive development of morality for its child characters. Much of Rowling’s early influences stemmed from her relationship with her parents, primarily her mother, whose death contributed toward several scenes and/or depictions of love and death in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, and Rowling’s life as a single mother (Orford). Harry must confront Voldemort at the end of the novel and face the man who murdered his parents; however, it is by the love of his mother, who sacrificed herself when Harry was an infant so that he could live, that Voldemort is defeated at the end of The Philosopher’s Stone. The love of Harry’s mother, something which he yearns for in her absence and which he experiences at the end of the novel with his defeat of Voldemort, is a consistent theme throughout the text. Parallels can be drawn between this conflict and Rowling’s own grief after her mother’s passing. Rowling draws from her own experience with losing a parent, not only making this one of the larger themes of the book, but also one of the moral challenges that stimulates growth in Harry’s character. Upon discovering the love of his mother is still with him, literally demonstrated in Harry’s fight with Voldemort, Harry is able to truly embrace goodness and its triumph over evil.

In much the same way, Rowling’s experience as a single parent can likely be read as an influence on the growth of Harry’s morality, demonstrated through his ability to establish a life for himself at Hogwarts that is separate and improved from the life he knew with the Dursleys. After divorcing from her husband, Rowling moved to Edinburgh where she was jobless, a single mother, and had little familial support with the exception of her sister who lived nearby (Orford). However, it was in this setting that Rowling was able to begin constructing the novel that would later lead to her immense success with the Harry Potter series. Rowling’s initial lack of familial support with her ex-husband is reflected in Harry’s time with the Dursleys; a household that not only did not want him, but despised him. Transitioning from the Dursley’s household to Hogwarts, Harry is able to make friends and establish a life that is far more morally rewarding than what he had previously lived. Rowling, too, in her move to Edinburgh and her creation of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone while in an ambiguous state of unemployment, experienced significant transition in regards to what she knew as normal, and it is quite possible that this change in her personal life was reflected in Harry’s own moral progressions.

By tracing these moral progressions throughout all seven novels combined, there is a clear pattern of characters deviating from the societal norms of their personal realities. In each era of history and in each setting of the novels, the characters in all of these works of literary importance display traits of independence that strengthen each of them morally and, in many cases, this enforces a progression toward adulthood. These works are both a reflection of the eras in which they were published and a rejection of them. Authors Carroll, Burnett, Barrie, Lewis, White, Paterson, and Rowling have all produced characters that uniquely embody a change from what is considered societally acceptable to something that inspires personal growth and the achievement of “goodness.” It is this change that allows readers to both relate to, be inspired by, and learn lessons from the experiences of these child characters.