Up Close and (un)Conventional – Literary Orphans
Welcome to this week’s Up Close and (un)Conventional. This is where I discuss both things that have to do with reading and blogging, and things that just have to do with life in general. This week, I’ve been thinking a lot about literary orphans, or the lack of parents in YA novels. It’s something that sometimes really irks me, because it kind of makes things too easy for the teens – they don’t have anyone around to enforce rules, nor do they have someone who loves them unconditionally and makes them feel safe. It sometimes feels like this has become a trope of laziness, which may be completely unfair to YA novels!
And while I was thinking about the unfairness of my own thinking, I went way back in time, and I realized that a lot of classics feature orphans or child characters who don’t have parents who are present either. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens is an orphan, and he is even a child laborer for a long time. Until he takes matters into his own hands and walks all the way to where he thinks his aunt lives. And what about Catherine in Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights? Her mother is dead, and her father is emotionally absent, even if he is somewhat physically present. The same happens in George Eliot’s Adam Bede, where Hester grows up with a distant mother, and it’s almost as if she didn’t have parents at all.
Therefore, it’s not as if YA has invented lack of parents in order to shape characters’ personality, or to make the plot unfold in a certain way, with young characters who need to live by trial and error rather than having guidance from parents who love them and only want what’s best for them. That being said, it always makes me happy when there is at least one parent who is present, strong and loving in a YA novel, it makes me feel that the author dared to overcome the difficulties a loving parent can make to a teenage plot, and it’s refreshing to read something that’s a little bit different. What do you think of the lack of parents in YA? Do you have some recommendations for me where parents are around in YA?