chapter  3
19 Pages

Charity, Affect, and Waif Novels

ByKristine Moruzi

British fiction featuring neglected, impoverished children was popular between the mid-1860s and the 1890s. This period saw a growing concern for children of the poor, which resulted in legislation limiting children's employment, mandating education, and attempting to protect them from cruelty and neglect. This fiction, typically referred to as waif novels, features poor children as objects of pathos who are introduced and converted to evangelical Christianity. This chapter explores the affective and emotional responses depicted in and produced by waif novels, and the extent to which the affecting nature of these texts was designed to encourage child readers to help others. The Victorians were unequivocal in their belief that reading played an important role in directing individuals towards moral behaviours. Like the Victorians, contemporary philosopher Martha Nussbaum argues for the transformative potential of reading. The stories that children find-or are intended to find-affecting can vary across time and space.