The Denial of Death in Children’s Literature
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This dissertation applies theories from anthropologist Ernest Becker to children’s literature; specifically ideas about cultural systems and their effectiveness against death anxiety. The secondary worlds of Narnia in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (Lewis, 1950) and Neverland in Peter and Wendy (Barrie, 1911) are examined in chapter one. The analysis discusses the strength of the cultural system provided by each realm and explores how effective it is in combating the fear of death. Consideration is given to how the creation stories, codes of moral conduct, and differing time-frames work collectively in order to provide a stable culture and symbolic immortality promise. Chapter two analyses the characters of Wilbur and Charlotte in Charlotte’s Web (White, 1952). It draws on Lacan’s Mirror Stage theory when highlighting the importance of self-esteem in the denial of death and explains how this is inexplicably linked to the immortality presented by the text. Ideas regarding heroism and genetic inheritance are used to demonstrate the success of biological and metaphorical legacy in their promise of immortality. Finally, the concept of physical immortality is explored in Tuck Everlasting (1975). Drawing on theories from Williams and Overall in their definitions of body-bound immortality, both the consequences and desirability of continued physical living are considered.
BA (Hons) English and Drama
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