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Magic Abjured: Closure in Children's Fantasy Fiction

Sarah Gilead
PMLA
Vol. 106, No. 2 (Mar., 1991), pp. 277-293
DOI: 10.2307/462663
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/462663
Page Count: 17
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Magic Abjured: Closure in Children's Fantasy Fiction
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Abstract

Focusing on several classic works of children's literature in English (such as The Wizard of Oz, the Alice books, and Peter Pan), this study examines the self-reflexive and metaliterary thrust of the genre's characteristic fantasy-framing device, the return-to-reality ending, and suggests a tripartite taxonomy of closural effects: therapeutic-socializing, fantasy-rejecting, and tragic. The familiarity of the return serves to screen conflicting adult agendas in literature for children. The traditional role of the adult as regulator of transitional states (i.e., of childhood itself) consorts oddly with the Romantic reversal of the adult-child hierarchy and with post-Romantic anxiety regarding both traditional and Romantic models of the relation between adult and child. While the return works to restore the conventional orders of significance temporarily neutralized by the fantasy plot, it also tends to ironize such conventions, including the convention of narrative closure.

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