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“Let me see if Philip can/ Be a little gentleman”: Parenting and Class in Struwwelpeter and Great Expectations

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Abstract:

This article suggests that “The Story of Fidgety Philip” in Heinrich Hoffmann's best-selling children's book Struwwelpeter (1845) should be considered one of the sources fueling Herbert Pocket's objection to the name “Philip.” Its opening lines, “Let me see if Philip can/Be a little gentleman,” voice the novel's central obsession and thus invite us to consider Struwwelpeter as a significant intertext in Great Expectations. Struwwelpeter is an ambivalent text, for its desired result of civilizing children seems hollowed out by the negative portrait of parenting that emerges in it. Tracing the instabilities created by this ambivalence in Struwwelpeter reveals a corresponding ambivalence and perplexity in the novel's treatment of its fundamental themes (becoming a gentleman, raising children, raising gentlemen)—issues Dickens faced himself as the son of disappointing parents and the father of disappointing children.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.7756/dsa.041.012.281-297

Publication date: 2010-06-01

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