[ilds] RG Justine 1.1 -1.9 of course & the child

slighcl slighcl at wfu.edu
Wed Apr 18 07:31:20 PDT 2007


I will follow up Michael's email regarding the narrator's custody over 
the child (and LD's custody  over the reader) with a quick thought and a 
question about children and childhood in /Justine /and the /Quartet/.

>The story teller is on an island with a child.  He has complete 
>possession of this child.  He has the child, he has the child alone 
>with him on an island.  He has not yet named the child, but it is for 
>him to give the child a name.  A remarkable degree of power over this 
>child.  But indeed he will, later, give the child a name.  He has not 
>yet done so, but when he does so he will name it Justine.  Of course.  
>Such is his power to do what he likes.
>

Since I teach Victorian literature, I regularly shepherd students 
through novels in which orphaned children are brought up by guardians. 
In some works (/Bleak House/, for example), these guardians are benign.  
In other works (/Jane Eyre/, for example), the guardians are malign or 
indifferent.  Ascertaining the true identity of the orphan, along with 
its inheritance, is always the crucial focus of the plot.  That is how 
characters secure identity and understand themselves better.  That is 
how the larger world comes to make sense.

I am wondering now more and more about LD's use of children, his images 
of childhood, &c.  Melissa's child comes to mind, certainly, but then 
there might also be listed Justine's account of her own childhood, 
Justine's mystery child, the child-prostitutes, a dead baby or two/ 
/left beside the road or discovered in drawers or watched over in a 
dirty sink, and the gothic childhood of Pursewarden and Liza.

What to make of LD's /use /of children?  Again, issues of identity and 
making sense of the world are at stake, but in ways that seem to throw 
out the traditional concerns inherited from the novelistic tradition.

And, yes, I do italicize "LD's /use /of children."  As Michael's 
unflinching email seems to intimate, in life as well as in fiction, 
children can sometimes become pawns in larger games of control and 
power.  Sapphy's shadow in the text?  And if so, how do these lines and 
the moral economy of this book change for us?

        It is the city which should be judged though we, its children,
        must pay the price. (1.1)

One final note: In his typescript for Justine LD inserted and then quite 
soon struck out this addition, which would have completed 1.7:

        Small children make one doubt oneself.  One longs to protect
        them against the powers of the world.  Uselessly.  [Red ink
        insertion; struck through with red ink.]

Those sad lines would have darkened this heroic child-play on an island 
quite a bit.  Writing is "perhaps" a "useless attempt" (1.7).  Longing 
to protect children, "uselessly."  A grim shadow, warded off with an 
author's deletion.  Perhaps the relationship between Prospero and 
Miranda is not so simple?

CLS

-- 
**********************
Charles L. Sligh
Department of English
Wake Forest University
slighcl at wfu.edu
**********************

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