chapter  5
7 Pages

The Retreat into Childhood

ByPeter V. Marinelli

The pastoral of childhood in the form of the novel is the bequest to us, like the eclogue and the elegy, of antiquity. Like the pastoral of rural life, whose essential characteristic is that it is written at a distance from the country and from a sophisticated point of view, the pastoral of childhood requires the adult perspective. The emphasis on childhood is a Romantic innovation based on the notion that the clear natural vision of the child is somehow superior to that of the man. The novel is astonishing for the equilibrium it maintains between the freshness and beauty of the pastoral world and the sense of its fragility and finally of its insufficiency. The novel shatters all the romantic conceptions about childhood and natural goodness and the holiness of the heart's affections. Distant time has succeeded distant place as the focus of pastoral interest, and the golden pastures of Arcadia have yielded to the golden time of childhood.