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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Narratives of transformation : orphan girls, dolls and secret spaces in children's literature Goerzen, Christy Sharon


Many critics working in the field of literature for children have acknowledged the prevalence of orphan characters, dolls and doll characters and "children-only" spaces in the literature. While many have discussed their significance separately, to the best of my knowledge no one has thus far examined how they can function and operate together in literature for children. This examination of these formerly separate topics together is grounded in the question: How do dolls, secret spaces and the play associated with them function in literature for children such that the marginalized and displaced orphan girl characters therein undergo positive psychological transformation? My study is based in literary and psychological analysis. The theoretical framework employs the play theories of D.W. Winnicott and Erik Erikson, in conjunction with Gaston Bachelard's and Yi-Fu Tuan's theories of space. The methodology of this study builds upon psychological analyses of the orphan girl protagonists, within the context of their secret space environments and their relationships with dolls in the novels. This thesis analyzes four distinct novels featuring orphan girl protagonists, secret spaces and dolls, and examines the forms of psychological transformation experienced by each protagonist: Rumer Godden's Miss Happiness and Miss Flower, Sylvia Cassedy's Lucie Babbidge's House, Enys Tregarthen's The Doll Who Came Alive and Sylvia Cassedy's Behind the Attic Wall. In each case, this positive outcome is encouraged and facilitated by the girl's relationship to her dolls and her place of solace, or secret space. The patterns found here can point to ways of discovering the psychological changes in other protagonists in literature for children, and how playthings and secret spaces can work to facilitate these changes.

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