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6 - The Construction of Childhood

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 June 2019

Dominic Head
Affiliation:
University of Nottingham
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Summary

Throughout his writing career, McEwan’s most common representation of childhood is arguably one of threatened vulnerability. Actual children frequently feature in McEwan’s novels as potential victims or endangered innocents, while the concept of childhood in his work features innocence and absence as recurring touchstones. Consequently, this chapter will outline how the depiction of childhood and the treatment of children appears to serve across McEwan’s fiction as a barometer for social care in its broadest sense: from the concern with child neglect and abuse in the early stories of the 1970s, through the loss of children and the pointed childlessness of adult protagonists in the middle works of the 1980s and 1990s, to the centrality once more of vulnerable children in recent novels that touch on the role of the state in the twenty-first century.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2019

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