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A contrast of depictions of growing up from Alcott’s Little Women and Stevenson’s Treasure Island

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  1. Introduction
    1. The central protagonist
    2. The depictions of growing up in Alcott's Little Women and Stevenson's Treasure Island
  2. Alcott's Little Women
    1. Watson's argument
    2. The concept of girlhood
    3. The characterization of the Tomboy Jo
    4. Alcott's presentation of the relationship between the four female protagonists
    5. The socio-political backdrop
    6. The conflict faced by the female gender
  3. Stevenson's Treasure Island
  4. Conclusion
  5. Bibliography

The coming of age narratives in Robert Stevenson's ?Treasure Island? (1883) and Louise Alcott's ?Little Women? (1868) juxtaposed thrilling stories with moral issues that were contextually uncommon in children's literature. Additionally, both novels were written in what has been referred to as the ?Golden Age? of children's literature (Gubar 2009) and Gubar comments that:

?Treasure Island reflects a deep anxiety about the power imbalance that complicates the adult author-child reader relationship? Stevenson worries that the authors of adventure stories aim to indoctrinate and exploit youngsters like his impressionable boy hero? (Gubar, 2009:126-127).

[...] In terms of growing up, Little Women provides a first hand account of female growing up, and to this end, Watson posits that as such, Little Women reshaped literary assumptions of girlhood creating the framework for the subsequent ?development of the girl's story in North America; arguably it is the mother of the What Katy Did series, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm the Pollyanna stories and the Anne of Green Gables series all of which combine domestic detail with tomboyish girls striving to overcome their natural indiscipline to find a place in society and husband without compromising their own personalities? (Watson 15). [...]


[...] However, in contrast to the poignancy of Little Women, the correlation of extreme fantasy and explicit brutal violence in Treasure Island clearly reshaped conventional perceptions of young feelings in growing up. For example, a seminal turning point in Treasure Island is when Jim is saved by Long John Silver as a result of Jim defending himself. The contrast of a child in a dark adult world exemplifies the duality of human nature underlying the shifting narrative. In doing so, Treasure Island goes further than the gender issue and suggests the interrelationship between subjection of conventional childhood to the subversion of adult domination, which is key to the unconventional reality of childhood mirrored in both Alcott and Stevenson's work. [...]


[...] Nevertheless, the portrayal of girls and the development of femininity in growing up has fuelled debate and Alberghene and Clark suggest that Jo is a central character in confounding traditional expectations of women: ?From the immediacy, the authority with which Frank Merrill's familiar illustrations of Little Women came to mind as soon as I asked myself what a woman writing looks like, I know that Jo March must have had real influence upon me when I was young scribbler. I am sure she has influenced many girls, for she is not, like most authors dead, or inaccessibly famous, nor like so many artists in books, is she set apart by sensitivity or suffering or general superlativity; nor is she like most authors in novels, male. [...]

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