Kim Paunia. Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences English 15 points Supervisor: Maria Holmgren Troy Examiner: Anna Linzie

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The Famous Five a Good Starting Point for Raising Important Questions in the Classroom An Intersectional Analysis of Power Differences and Stereotypes in Enid Blyton s Five Fall into Adventure Vi fem en
The Famous Five a Good Starting Point for Raising Important Questions in the Classroom An Intersectional Analysis of Power Differences and Stereotypes in Enid Blyton s Five Fall into Adventure Vi fem en bra utgångspunkt för att beröra viktiga frågor i klassrummet En intersektionell analys av maktskillnader och stereotyper i Enid Blytons Fem går i fällan Kim Paunia Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences English 15 points Supervisor: Maria Holmgren Troy Examiner: Anna Linzie Abstract In this essay, Enid Blyton s book Five Fall into Adventure is analyzed with a focus on behavior patterns, stereotypes and power division. Intersectionality is used as an approach and a close reading of passages is used as a method. I argue that the novel could work as a good starting point for raising important questions in the classroom, despite the criticism which has been directed towards Blyton s works. Although the way in which Blyton portrays gender stereotypes is often more acknowledged by critics, this book could be an especially useful tool when touching upon the questions of class and ethnicity. The essay also demonstrates that the criticized aspects of the books, such as them being considered sexist, should be further analyzed, emphasized and discussed, rather than suppressed, because they could serve as a good starting point for dealing with questions which are important to touch upon in teaching situations. Inequality, sexism and xenophobia are examples of such questions. Keywords: Enid Blyton, The Famous Five, intersectionality, power differences, stereotypes, inequality, teaching situations Sammanfattning I denna uppsats analyseras Enid Blytons bok Fem går i fällan med fokus på beteendemönster, stereotyper och maktskillnader. Analysen utförs utifrån ett intersektionellt perspektiv och närläsning av avsnitt används som metod. Jag framhåller att boken skulle kunna fungera som en bra utgångspunkt för att beröra viktiga frågor i klassrummet, trots att kritik har riktats mot Blytons verk. Det är ofta Blytons sätt att skildra genusstereotyper som uppmärksammas mest av kritiker, men jag belyser att boken skulle kunna vara ett särskilt användbart verktyg för att beröra frågor rörande klass och etnicitet. Uppsatsen visar även att de kritiserade aspekterna av böckerna, exempelvis att de kan anses vara sexistiska, borde vidare analyseras, betonas och diskuteras, istället för att undvikas. Anledningen till det är att de kan användas som en väldigt bra utgångspunkt för att ta upp frågor som är viktiga att vidröra i undervisningen. Ojämlikhet, sexism och främlingsfientlighet är exempel på sådana frågor. Nyckelord: Enid Blyton, Vi fem, Fem-böckerna, intersektionalitet, maktskillnader, stereotyper, ojämställdhet, undervisningssituationer 2 In 2008, Enid Blyton was voted Britain s best loved author. David Rudd refers to Blyton as a publishing phenomenon, stating that no British writer for children, other than Roald Dahl, has been commercially so successful and like Dahl she has attracted endless controversy (185). Rudd writes that since the 1950s, Blyton has been criticized for the literary qualities of her work and the correctness of her social attitudes and he emphasizes that not all of these attacks have been based on close discussions of the books themselves (185). The fact that Blyton, despite all the negative criticism directed towards her, is still loved and read by so many, calls for the need to analyze her work more closely. Rudd mentions a girl who was not allowed to read Blyton in school because the books were considered too sexist. To that, the girl answered that it was obvious that the books were sexist, given when they were written (185). Rudd states that in other words, the girl had enjoyed the stories but was in no way being sold into gender slavery by them (185), and he proves a good point. Discussions of the books could work well to teach pupils how to make connections such as the one the girl made, whereas trying to save children from the criticized aspects of the books by excluding the books from teaching can instead have negative effects: Trying to launder the books in terms of political correctness is to undermine children s own capacities particularly girls ; girls, it is often reasoned, need to be protected from such material. But to do this is to perpetuate the very discourse that many are trying to circumvent (i.e., to perpetuate the notion that girls really do need wrapping in cotton wool). (Rudd 194) Many critics have focused mainly on the gender aspects portrayed in Blyton s work, but this essay points out that the books are equally interesting to discuss in terms of class and ethnicity. As this essay aims to show, one beneficial way of working with Blyton s books is to analyze them using an intersectional perspective, examining power differences between characters. The concept of intersectionality has become very popular and this essay shows that the concept could work very well when applied to Blyton s works, which also suggests that her works should be included in teaching situations, rather than excluded. Oxford Dictionary provides a good definition of intersectionality and states that through an awareness of intersectionality, we can better acknowledge and ground the differences among us ( Intersectionality ), which clearly shows how important it is to touch upon the topic in teaching situations. Intersectionality could be defined as the interconnected nature of social 3 categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage ( Intersectionality ). Discussing differences between people, such as those which pertain to gender, class and ethnicity, is of outmost importance in a time when xenophobia appears to become more common, to keep working against such tendencies and towards the goals of the curriculum. The curriculum states that xenophobia and intolerance better must be fought with knowledge, open discussions and active efforts and that nobody in school should be discriminated against because of gender, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, age or other aspects (Skolverket 7). Analyzing stereotypes and power differences in children s books may raise the reader s awareness of such inequalities among children and could be used to teach young readers to recognize such tendencies through literary depictions. In this essay, intersectionality is used as an approach and close reading is used as a method for analyzing Five Fall into Adventure. The focus of the analysis is on behavior patterns, stereotypes and power relations. I argue that the book could work well as a starting point for important discussions, not least in the classroom. However, the essay does not give concrete examples of how to work with the book or questions in teaching situations. Instead, it is to be considered an example of how one could apply intersectional ideas and questions about stereotypes and behavior patterns to the book in general. I aim to show that the book contains several aspects concerning class and ethnicity which makes it especially useful in discussions about such questions. Moreover, I propose that the criticized aspects of the books, such as them being considered sexist, should be further analyzed, emphasized and discussed, rather than suppressed, because they could serve as a great starting point for dealing with important questions, for example concerning sexism and xenophobia, in teaching situations. The essay starts with a theory section, which explains the term intersectionality further. I then move on to presenting some of the criticism which has been directed towards Blyton s works and continue with a brief summary of Five Fall into Adventure. My intersectional analysis of the novel then follows. Because intersectionality can be a rather complex concept, it requires some definitions. Intersectionality derived from black feminist scholars attempts to conceptualize both the particularity and universality of their social condition (Gopaldas 90). The approach is explained further by Ahir Gopaldas, who says that intersectionality refers to the interactivity of social identity structures such as race, class, and gender in fostering life experiences, especially experiences of privilege and oppression (90). Gopaldas discusses the 4 advantages of not specifying particular social identity structures beforehand when undertaking an intersectional analysis and then demonstrates that it is beneficial to keep an open mind and be willing to include other categories which are shown to be of relevance (90). This essay focuses on class, gender, age and ethnicity, because those categories proved to be the most relevant for the analysis of Five Fall Into Adventure. Economy and education are here considered a part of the category of class. Applying an intersectional perspective when analyzing fiction has been done before with good results. For example, Svenja Bingel et. al analyze the fictional representations of Māori women s identities, using an intersectional perspective and they clearly show how beneficial the perspective can be when applied to fiction, as it is in this essay. They mention ethnicity, age, sexuality and gender as aspects of identities which evidently are highly intricate, therefore spiraling in and out of each other and claim that the fictional representations of the work they have analyzed showed to be valuable for discussions of such identitary (and thus frequently political) complexeties (57). Any reading which fails to look at the text only through the perspective of gender and sexism will miss the crucial power relations which are illustrated through, for example, Jo and her liminality. In the example of Jo, they are illustrated in terms of gender as well as in terms of class and ethnicity. As mentioned in the introduction, Blyton s works have received a lot of criticism, not least concerning sexism. To be familiar with some of the criticism which has been directed towards her writing is of importance when analyzing her works. Although the analysis in this essay will show that class and ethnicity could be considered the most interesting aspects of Five Fall into Adventure, the concept of sexism is also of importance for the essay and because Blyton has been criticized for being sexist, the topic is here discussed and defined further. Rudd argues that sexism is a process rather than a thing and that nothing is innately sexist ; rather sexism draws its energy from relations of power, which encourages analyzing the sexist aspects of the books from an intersectional perspective. He makes his point clearer when stating that in a patriarchal society, certain meanings will predominate, just as the concept of sexism is itself normally concerned with the power of men over women, not vice versa (187). Five Fall into Adventure portrays boys as the predominating sex and it could therefore be considered sexist. However, despite all the negative criticism, some critics argue that the books are not sexist. For example, Liesel Coetzee brings up some very good points and my analysis will draw on some of her ideas. She claims that Blyton should have been praised for subverting dominant heteronormative discourses of the time (86), which shows how the books could 5 instead be considered a reaction against the sexist stereotypes of that time. When arguing that the books are not sexist, Coetzee draws attention to two specifically interesting aspects of them, which will be relevant for the analysis in this essay as well. The first aspect indicates that the books are not sexist is Blyton strengthening the idea that women have a freedom of choice, at a time when society did not really provide them with such freedom. That choice is, according to Coetzee, illustrated by Anne and her ability to choose whether she wants to join in on her siblings and cousin s scary adventures or not. Coetzee raises the thought that Anne is not criticized for choosing not to participate in certain daring activities, which is discussed further below as well and shows that every girl s own choice should be accepted (96). However, Coetzee fails to acknowledge George as an additional character exhibiting a freedom of choice, when choosing to be different from other girls. The second aspect concerns Blyton s tendency to create opportunities for female characters to succeed in traditionally more masculine tasks and activities, something she illustrates through George (86). Coetzee has a really good point here, which supports the analysis of this essay. Furthermore, the essay will highlight Jo as another example of such a subversive character. As Blyton s critics have often pointed out, certain aspects of Five Fall into Adventure could indeed be considered to be sexist. The portrayals of Anne as a stereotypical girl and of Julian as the stereotypical, powerful male are examples of such aspects. However, my thesis will show that the book could instead be considered the opposite of sexist; a reaction to the sexist stereotypes, much like Coetzee claims. Coetzee acknowledges that Blyton has received much negative criticism, but convincingly describes a more positive way to interpret the books: Although there is evidence that Blyton does support a dominant heteronormative discourse that encouraged girls and women to take a submissive role in relation to boys and men, she also undermines such stereotypes and shows her readers different possibilities for girls and women. In her portrayal of the tomboy George, Blyton illustrates that girls and women can succeed at traditionally masculine tasks, while at the same time she reassures young readers that a traditionally feminine role such as that ascribed to Anne is also available to them. (Coetzee 85) 6 Having suggested that the books could be considered sexist, although they could also be considered the opposite, I would argue that the former is not a reason to exclude them from teaching situations. Instead, it is in fact a good reason to include them; because doing so offers a good starting point for discussions about questions related to gender, sexism and stereotyping. Rudd similarly maintains that Blyton s books are not sexist but explore sexism in a way to which children can relate and that taking away that dimension would be denying children some of the pleasure experienced in the books in particular in the person of George (194). Furthermore, he emphasizes the advantages of the books: Some modern books miss the tension of the Famous Five precisely because they inscribe a world of unlikely equality whereas many children experience a world that is not like this. The Famous Five, I contend, allow children to take part in the struggle, to fight it themselves, rather than being protected from it. (194) Rudd s arguments clearly indicate why discussions of Blyton s books could be beneficial to use in teaching situations. I am convinced that The Famous Five could provide children with a useful basis for productive engagement with complex and important questions. Five Fall into Adventure was first published in Its main characters are Georgina, who is called George, and her cousins Julian, Dick and Anne. The three siblings go to stay with George at her home, Kirrin Cottage, while her parents, the well-known scientist called Quentin and his wife, Fanny, are away on holiday. Except for the family s cook, Joanna, and George s dog Timmy, the children are alone at Kirrin Cottage. They meet a child named Jo and her father on the beach one day and after that, Jo plays an important part in the book. The children first mistake Jo for a boy, but soon learn she is in fact a girl. One night, Anne sees a face in the window and strange things begin to happen after that. Another night, Timmy disappears for a while and returns drugged. The next morning, the children wake up to find that somebody has broken into the house and gone through Uncle Quentin s study. George and Timmy then disappear and the children receive a note from Jo, saying that George has been kidnapped and will be set free in exchange for one of Uncle Quentin s notebooks. Even though she first refuses to give them any information, Jo eventually helps the children find George. They find clues which lead to Red Tower. Jo informs the children that Red Tower is a person and that she knows where he can be found. Anne is left at home but Julian, Dick and Jo go to rescue George and Timmy. They then come face to face with the kidnappers, one of 7 which is Jo s dad, and Jo ends up saving both George and the boys from the dangerous situations. In the end, the children are reunited and thus the book has a happy ending. One does not need to read very many pages of Five Fall into Adventure before the stereotypical gender roles of the book become clear. In fact, already on the second page, the following is described: Out came a big boy, who helped down a small girl (Blyton 2). This gives the impression that gender stereotypes will be described like this throughout the book; with big boys taking care of small, vulnerable girls. However, on the next page, George tells Dick to shut up and although it is in a friendly way, it becomes clear that George is not like stereotypical little girls but instead challenges such gender representations. Anne, the small girl who is helped, would never tell a boy to shut up. Lois Tyson writes that feminist criticism looks at how literature (and other cultural productions) reinforces or undermines the economic, political, social, and psychological oppression of women (83), an idea which is especially relevant when analyzing the portrayal of Anne. Tyson discusses traditional gender roles further: Traditional gender roles cast men as rational, strong, protective, and decisive; they cast women as emotional (irrational), weak, nurturing, and submissive. These gender roles have been used very successfully to justify inequities, which still occur today, such as excluding women from equal access to leadership and decision-making positions (in the family as well as in politics, academia, and the corporate world), paying men higher wages than women for doing the same job (if women are even able to obtain the job), and convincing women that they are not fit for careers in such areas as mathematics and engineering. (85) In this context, the representations of adult characters in the book are interesting, since they could be considered to represent the children s role models. George s father, Quentin, is a successful and well known scientist. He is described as rather a difficult man at home, impatient, hot-tempered and forgetful. The children were fond of him, but held him in great respect (5). George s mother, Fanny, is a typical housewife and is first depicted handing around plates of her nicest scones and teacakes (5), which says a lot about women s role in the book. When the children arrive at Kirrin Cottage, their aunt Fanny is very pleased to see her nephews and niece again, suggesting that she is a much more loving and warm person than her husband. This agrees with the prejudice that women are usually more emotional and 8 caring than men, a stereotypical portrayal much like the previously mentioned one that Tyson discusses. One episode is especially interesting when analyzing the portrayal of Quentin and Fanny: the one in which they have tea. Dick then asks Fanny where Quentin is and Fanny answers that he is in his study and aware of it being tea time, and he s heard the bell, but I expect he s buried in something or other. I honestly think he d go without food all day long if I didn t go and drag him into the dining room! (6). When the two of them are to leave for their vacation, Fanny has been ready for a long time, but must try hard to get her husband ready to go (11); just like a mother has to get her child ready for school. This makes
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