ALFONSO MATE VERA 10100169 FINAL ESSAY EN434 Childrens Fiction
Jill May states that: ???the traditional Bildungsroman heroes fit a home-awayhome pattern.??? In your opinion, does this statement apply to childrens fiction Analyse the plot structure of two novels to show the journey away from home is a necessity for the hero to prove himself.
The German term Bildungsroman that means ???novel of learning or formation??? and it is applied to every piece of fiction in which the narration of the physical, moral, psychological or social development of a character, generally from the childhood to the mature, is the main topic. It was a recurrent motif in the Victorian literature and the main feature is its didactic function. If we applied that term to childrens fiction, we can see the importance of a childrens book, not only for entertaining or reading development, but also for the development of identity and the sense of the self. The two novels I am analyzing to prove how the journey away from home is a necessity and how it fits with the concept of Bildungsroman are Stardust by Neil Gaiman and Varjak Paw by SF Said. For that porpoise, I will take the scheme of the American philosopher Joseph Campbell who established in The Hero With A Thousand Faces that all heroes in all cultures and myths follow the same narrative pattern in their journeys: Separation – Struggle ??“ Return, and Vladimir Propps Morphology Of The Folktale functions. Stardust is considered a fairy tale for adults and it was first conceived as a graphic novel. The novel takes two of the nineteenth century traditions that are fairy tales and bildungsroman. The story is about how a young boy named Tristran Thorne left his town and his family to look for a fallen star in order to getting married with the girl he likes. It sounds typically, but later on we see how he is not the only one who is interested in the star, and how Tristan has to become an hero to defeat all the problems. Stardust works on all the levels of a classic fairy tale along with the modern touches of Gaimans brooding fantastic fiction. It has a lot of inter-textual and allusions to other fairy tales. In the novel, one can see two worlds, the ordinary one in which Tristran lives and the Faerie lands, where the major part of the novel takes place. All of this through the conventions of the fairy tale
format. In Stardust the quest isnt nearly so much the story or the purpose as it is the emotions of the young protagonist and his desire to ascertain his place in the world, a classic bildungsroman without the unnecessary exposition of literary fiction. If we take the functions of the Morphology Of the Folktale by the Russian erudite Vladimir Propp we can see that they fits with the Gaimans novel in loads of aspects. I will take some of the thirty-one functions to explain the novel as a journey of experience and discovering oneself. The The first function I think is remarkable is the number one: Absention ??“ One of the members of a family absents himself/herself from home. In the case of Stardust, Tristrans biological mother is absent in his childhood and despite having a step-mother, the absence of his origin is one of the reasons of Tristran journey of discovering himself. ???Sometimes Tristran would look up to see his mother staring at him intently, as if she were trying to tease some secret from his face??? (StardustNeil Gaiman-Page 28) The second ,the third and the eleven functions are also relevant: Interdiction (An interdiction is addressed to the hero) Violation (The interdiction is violated) and Departure (The hero leaves home). In the very beginning of the novel, Tristran wants to cross the wall what is prohibited, but in his case they made an exception because he belongs to the Faerie lands, but Tristan doesnt know it at that point, so the transgression of the wall is the beginning of his journey and that journey begins because of discovering who he really is, if he would have been an ordinary one, he could not have passed the wall. The irony of the departure is that he is not really leaving his home or his land, but he is returning back to the land where he belongs to. ???And now its time for him to go back??? (Stardust-Neil Gaiman-Page 41). The step fourteenth is Provision or receipt of a magical agent (The hero acquires the use of a magical agent) In this case, Tristran receives a candle and a chain from a little man in exchange of the help Tristran offered him, so the morality of the help given and the help received and the generosity are important features that Tristran needs to be a hero. The next stages are the numbers twenty-three and twenty-seven: Branding/Marking (The hero is
branded) and Unrecognized Arrival (The hero, unrecognized, arrives home). Tristran burnt his hand for saving Ivane. A permanent physical injury that make him living the mark. That mark will be a physical memory of whom he is, in this case, a brave person and a truly hero who doesnt mind to be burnt for saving another person. When Tristran ???goes back??? to his town, he is hardly recognized by the people from there. Later on comes the step number twenty-seven, Recognition (The hero is recognized) ???You became a man. And your hand. What happened to your hand???(Stardust-Neil Gaiman-Page 175). All the different phases, Tristran passed to become a hero make him realized how much he has changed and who he really is. The last step is the Wedding (The hero is married and ascends the throne). In the case of Stardust, the coronation is later and not after the adventure ends, but what it is important is that it follows the same pattern as Propp established in his studies. The journey of Tristan is a pilgrimage in a way, a journey of discovering and revelation, a journey of rebirth and rebuilt his identity, an identity given in this case by women (his mother and Ivane) in a Patriarchal Society.
Varjak Paw is the story of a Mesopotamian Blue kitten that has to leave home to look for a dog and save its family, which do not even know they are in danger. The plot structure of the novel is very simple and easy, with the three phases of Campbells scheme (Separation-Struggle-Return), but what I find really interesting and very innovative is how Said introduces the theme of the dream vision and prophetic style in children literature, making the novel more enjoyable for adult readers at the same time. In the very begging of the novel we see the conflict between the main character and his family, the problem between individualism against the group. In this case, I will follow the twelve steps of the journey of the hero that according to Campbell is the same in all cultures. The first step is ???The Ordinary World???. This is the normal world where the hero lives and where he doesnt fit at all. This world creates a contrast by showing the main character in his mundane and boring ordinary world. ???Varjak look around…-Hed never been anywhere else, but this had to be the
most boring place on earth.??? (Varjak Paw- SF Said ??“ Page 10) The second stage is ???The Call To Adventure??? The hero is presented with a problem, challenge, or adventure. In the case of Varjak Paw, it is when a gentleman and two mysterious black cats appeared and they seem to be good and pleasant with him and his family, but for a reason, neither Varjak nor Elder Paw trust on him and want to make him going away by finding a dog Outside. The third point is ???The Hero Is Reluctant At First???. At this time, the hero reject the adventure because of the fear of the unknown. Varjak doubts if he should go on his own to the Outside and he spent some time thinking about it. Everything seems to be dangerous, but finally he accepts and go. The fourth and fifth steps are ???Meeting With The Mentor or Supernatural Help??? and ???The Hero Passes The First Threshold??? . In Varjak Paw, these two events take place nearly at the same time. Varjak is trying to go Outside but suddenly falls towards the ground and he dreams with his ancestor Jalal who teaches him his first lesson that is to be Open Mind. The originality of Varjak Paw is the dream vision and all the lessons of the mentor are in all the novel, making Varjak learning and discovering himself gradually. After that, Varjak awoke Outside and began his adventure in ???a city where anything could happen, and probably did???(Varjak Paw- SF Said ??“ Page 62) In the sixth and seventh stages we found ???Task, Allies and Enemies??? and ???Approaching??? . At this point of the adventure, the hero faces his firsts tasks, finds some allies who will teach him the rules of this new world and also knows about the dangers and the enemies of that special place. What we called as the Approaching is when the hero is successful in his duties. In the novel, Varjak wants to find a dog but he must learn how the Outside works. He meets Holly and Tam and they inform him about the cats mysterious kidnappings and the different groups or ???gangs??? that rule the city and also about the figure of Sally Bones, a vicious and evil cat. Varjak must learn how to survive in this world by hunting and by def fending himself against gangs and finally he is successful. ???Traumatic or Hardest Task??? and ???Reward??? are the eighth and ninth phases. At this point, the biggest crisis of the adventure takes place, a matter of life or death. And at the end, he is self-
confident and fearless and he gets his reward. In the case of Varjak Paw, Varjak finds Sally Bones and Razor, a very dangerous cat, and he fights against them, he wins and a dog appeared. All the other cats run because they are scared but Varjak stands in front of him and they become friensd. It was all what Varjak was looking for and finally he gets it. Finally, the three last steps are ???Road Back???, ???Resurrection??? and ???Return With The Elixir???. The hero must come back to the ordinary world, and there he must fight with all the lessons he has learnt and finally the hero gets the elixir and helps everybody in the ordinary world. When Varjak goes back to his house everything has changed, even him and he has to defeat the new authority and the danger he left behind at the beginning. He wins and he gets the elixir which in this case is selfconfidence, leadership and respect and in this case he uses the elixir to help not just his family from the ordinary world, but also the unfair situation cats are living Outside.
By taking these two studies, the theme of bildungsroman can apply to every children fiction from all the times. Since tales from the early nineteenth century by the Grimm Brothers or Collodis The Adventures of Pinocchio to the most recent event in childrens literature, Harry Potter by JK Rowling. All of them fit in the schemes by Joseph Campbell and Vladimir Propp and in the statement Jill May said in his Childrens Literature and Critical Theory.
??? ??? ??? Said, S. F., and Dave McKean. Varjak Paw. Gaiman, Neil. Stardust Zipes, Jack. Fairy Tales and the Art of Subversion: the Classical Genre for Children and the Process of Civilization. ??? ??? ??? “Bildungsroman.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. “Vladimir Propp.” Wikipedia, La Enciclopedia Libre. “El Heroe De Las Mil Caras.” Wikipedia, La Enciclopedia Libre.
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