Date of Award

5-2008

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Legacy Department

English

Advisor

Ashton, Susanna

Committee Member

Martin , Michelle

Committee Member

Sparks , Elisa

Abstract

Throughout literary history the child in literature has played multiple roles but was most frequently used as either a symbol for innocence or evil. In the case of three contemporary novels, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer; The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon; and M. T. Anderson's novel entitled The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing: Traitor to the Nation, Volume I: The Pox Party, the authors use the image of the precocious child to evoke thoughts about learning and education. These three novels invite their audiences to experience an almost anti-Bildungsroman coming-of-age story by challenging the ability of reason to solve problems when faced with traumatic occurrences, such as death and betrayal. By asking their audiences to see the limitations of perceived absolutes, such as scientific facts and deductive reasoning, the authors evoke a relearning in the mind of their readers through the characteristics associated with the social construction of the child and childhood. The texts additionally support this idea by using a series of conventions that each individually, and especially when threaded all together, touch on the theme of knowledge and learning. These conventions are child-like instances of play, which further bring around the ability for a child to reshape a reader's thinking. These elements of youthful play and learning are games, such as puzzles and storytelling, and visuals, which mimic a children's picture book. By manipulating the form of the puzzle and introducing alternative methods of thinking and viewing the world, such as through storytelling and visuals, the authors each loosen the authority of scientific reasoning and explore illogical contraptions for coping with tragedy.

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