University of Worcester Worcester Research and Publications

A Complete Identity: the Image of the Hero in the Work of G. A. Henty (1832–1902) and George MacDonald (1824–1905)

Johnson, Rachel (2008) A Complete Identity: the Image of the Hero in the Work of G. A. Henty (1832–1902) and George MacDonald (1824–1905). PhD thesis, Coventry University in association with the University of Worcester.


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This study is an examination of the hero image in the work of G.A. Henty (1832-1902) and George MacDonald (1824-1905) and a reassessment of the hitherto oppositional critiques of their writing. The argument driving the reassessment is that their writing is not oppositional but is complementary and that the ideology embedded in their work is communicated through the character of the hero through genre and through their interpretation of their historical period.
The central hypothesis is that the reflexive characteristics of the hero image demonstrate a complete identity commensurate with the hero figure of the Victorian ideal. This hypothesis is demonstrated through the analysis of chosen texts from the work of Henty and MacDonald categorised by critics as written for children and by the application of ethical, genre and new historic theory. The relationship between the expansion of the British Empire and youthful heroism is established through investigation of the Victorian political, social and religious milieu, the construct of the child and the construct of the hero. The connection between the exotic geographical space of empire and the unknown psychological space is conducted through examination of the representation of the ‘other' in the work of Henty and MacDonald.
The study demonstrates that Henty’s work is more complex than the stereotypically linear, masculine, imperialistic critique of his stories as historical realism allows and that MacDonald’s work displays more evidence of historical embedding and ideological interpellation than the critical focus on his work as fantasy and fairy tale considers.
The contribution of this study to existing research on Henty and MacDonald is firstly by an examination of the ideology embedded in the construct of the hero figure as this construct impacted Victorian culture and secondly by reassessing the existing criticism of their work. Greater understanding of the effect of this heroic ideal on nineteenth century society leads to a greater understanding of the implications for subsequent cultures including that of the twenty first century. This aspect is examined in relation to the current reprinting programmes for Henty and MacDonald and is proposed as a subject for continued research.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Discrete Keywords: G. A. Henty, George MacDonald, children's literature, nineteenth century, hero, adventure stories, fairy tales, themes
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PZ Childrens literature
D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D204 Modern History
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Divisions: College of Arts, Humanities and Education > School of Humanities
Depositing User: Rachel Johnson
Date Deposited: 23 Dec 2008 16:17
Last Modified: 08 Jun 2021 09:25

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