SECRETS, LIES AND UNRELIABLE NARRATION IN FRANCES HODGSON BURNETT’S THE SECRET GARDEN AND ALEXIA CASALE’S THE BONE DRAGON

ABSTRACT

Secrets and lies are a reoccurring motif within children’s and young adult literature. Indeed, psychology considers the keeping and sharing of secrets to be an important part of children’s social development. This article explores the role and function of secrets, lies and unreliable narration in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden and Alexia Casale’s The Bone Dragon. In The Secret Garden, male upper-class secrets and lies are designed to exclude others. In contrast, the secret and lies of the children and working-class characters, where the narrative voice includes the reader, bear nurturing traits. However, although they initially empower the children to reinvent gender roles, they eventually result in the restoration of patriarchal structures. As an estranging unreliable narrator, The Bone Dragon’s protagonist Evie reluctantly shares her secrets arising from sexual abuse with the reader and with other characters. Nevertheless, the reader might recognise aspects of reality which Evie cannot acknowledge. Subversively, her secrets allow her to commit the perfect crime. Although the novels’approaches to secrets and lies differ, both agree that sharing secrets further interpersonal relationships. Furthermore, both depict how secrets and lies associated with trauma lead to social isolation.

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