The evolution of the child protagonist in the Québec and English-Canadian adult novel
Fiand Quigley, Theresia Maria
This thesis will examine the changing perceptions of childhood as evident in contemporary Quebec and English-Canadian adult fiction. In his study on childhood, Henry F. Smith, states that children and childhood itself have been largely ignored by historians; that, until recently, children did not appear in history books and scarcely existed in literature until the nineteenth century. "We almost take for granted today," he writes, "that childhood experience is important, that it has a bearing on our lives as adults, that children have feelings and needs that are different from those of adults but are nonetheless valid in their own right. It was not always the case." Smith goes on to explain that childhood, as a social phenomenon, is a fairly recent concept which only sprang into being around the seventeenth century, and he outlines the horrendous treatment of children in history, where they were frequently regarded as chattels, whose lives were at the discretion of the father, or as objects of prestige, which might be sold, given away, or abandoned at will.