HOW TO DEFINE ‘UTOPIAN’ CHILDREN’S STORIES?
Stories which create a myth of childhood by describing it as a myth of the Golden Age. Maria Nikolajeva lists the aspects of Utopian that most researchers agree upon in her book From Mythic to Linear: Time in children’s literature:
- the importance of a particular setting
- autonomy of felicitous space from the rest of the world
- a general sense of harmony
- a special significance of home
- absence of the repressive aspects of civilisation such as money, labor, law or government
- absence of death and sexuality
- and finally, as a result, a general sense of innocence
These stories tend to be set in the country and the weather is usually sunny and temperate, unless there’s a storm to symbolise someone’s state of emotion (pathetic fallacy). The setting is often secluded/walled, and this wall provides both security and restriction to push back against. Inside the boundary is the world of the child; outside is the adult world. Characters/readers never worry about where food comes from (there is an inexhaustible supply); same for money. Death and sexuality are entirely absent. In The Wind In The Willows, every single character is male; in Little Women, the story is heavily female. In a pre-homosexual time (where the concept doesn’t exist for children) sexuality therefore never crops up. In general, this is a time of innocence, where characters are oblivious to world politics, intellectual debate and so on.
In utopian fiction there is a transformation of a spatial concept, like a garden, into a temporal state, childhood.