- 東京女子大學附屬比較文化研究所紀要 (ISSN:05638186)
- vol.51, pp.61-78, 1990
This essay traces how the theme of time travel has unfolded in English children's novels of this century. I have chosen to examine some examples which particularly deal with the theme from a moral point of view, trying to bring into harmony the two worlds, the present and the past, and to show readers their location in the continuity of history. They are Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden, Alison Uttley, A Traveller in Time, Lucy Boston, The Children of Green Knowe, Phllipa Pearce, Tom's Midnight Garden, and some books for children by Penelope Lively. Before considering each work, I offer a brief survey of the background against which the time travel motif in children's literature should be considered. One feature is picked out for special attention: in the transition from Victorian to Edwardian literature it may be observed that the Victorian sense of the solidity of the visible world is encroached on by a sense of the unseen, the sense of another world which exists outside time. I also point out that in some stories the 'other world' is the world of the past, a world which no longer exists but proves nonetheless to be as real as the actual world. In the discussion of the books mentioned above, my points are as follows: The Secret Garden, though it has no claim to be considered in the context of this discussion, is noteworthy, because in this story all the devices, or settings, of those stories of time fantasy written more or less with moral intent are present; the juxtaposition of two worlds so different from each other that people recognize the people from the other world as ghosts; the physical or emotional isolation of the children who are the main characters; the experience of gaining strength and maturity through meeting and developing an intimacy with people from the past; various objects which have survived from the past telling them that the past was certainly there; and finally the mother figure who has a close relation to the world of the past and who serves as a mentor and protector of the children. In A Traveller in Time and The Children of Green Knowe, picturesque and poetic images of the people of far-gone times are beautifully created, but nostalgic longing for the past (though it is an understandable impulse at the time when England was going through various kinds of transformation) is too strong in the authors so that, despite the fact that the children finally come back to the present-day world and take their place in it, our overall impression is that the children remain suspended between the two worlds with their hearts still on the shadowy figures of the other world. It must also be noted that in these books the children are not simply ghosts in the eye of the people of the 'other world'; they acquire their own identity by becoming one with somebody from that world. Tom's Midnight Garden introduces a new aspect by dealing with the nearer past, which still remains in the memory of some living people; the Victorian garden where Tom plays with Hatty is the world of Hatty's memory into which Tom is admitted. However, if Hatty and Tom meet in her dream, which is her memory, why is it that Tom, when he gets back to his own time, finds under the floor of his room a pair of Hatty's skates with Hatty's note saying she is leaving them to the boy whom she once met? Tom brings the skates back to the other world, and the two of them skate side by side, each wearing the identical shoes. This use of the two pair of skates has often been criticised as a flaw in this almost flawless masterpiece. My argument is that the pair of skates which has broken through, as it were, the wall dividing the timecontrolled and the timeless worlds might be regarded as an objective correlative of the intensity of Hatty's memory. The two pairs of skates stand for the independent identities of Hatty and Tom, ensuring Tom's firm footing in his own world while leaving him something solid by which to remember to the bliss of his midnight garden. The essay ends by making a brief survey of the books for children by Penelope Lively, who in her constant return to the theme of the past and the present is the most obvious successor of the above-mentioned children's novelists. It illustrates how such books as The Driftway, The House in Norham Gardens and A Stitch in Time embody her message that, while it is only through personal memory that we have authentic access to the past, we nonetheless must live in history accomodating all changes. The argument concludes by considering how the traditional devices established in The Secret Garden have been handed down, modified and transformed, right through to the present day novels for children.