Redefining the American Dream through American Children’s Fantasy Literature: A Comparative Study of Taran Wanderer and A Wizard of Earthsea

UNCP Author/Contributor (non-UNCP co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Crystal D. Hester (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Pembroke (UNCP )
Web Site:
Laura Hakala, Ph.D.

Abstract: Because scholars typically study children’s fantasy literature with an international focus, the themes pertaining to a particular culture, such as the American Dream, often become distorted or ignored. When examining the children’s fantasy literature by American authors, key elements of the American Dream and its cultural implications become evident such as the desire for class mobility and self-improvement. However, under those implications is another set of subversive elements that call attention to the potential problems with the American Dream: struggles with identity, gender, race, and education that may inhibit the class mobility the Dream appears to promise. By conducting a comparative study of two children’s fantasy novels published in the 1960s, I explore how the subversive elements of two novels, Lloyd Alexander’s Taran Wanderer and Ursula Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea, come to light as they challenge the idea that one’s social class depends upon identity, gender, race, and education and instead present the alternative idea that one can achieve social mobility despite the limitations placed by society. Application of the Marxist theory to these two novels reveals the weaknesses they expose in the American Dream, but the two authors offer a redefinition of this myth that values community over individual gain, promoting the idea that the American Dream is an individual achieving social mobility while also using that new social mobility to benefit the community as a whole.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2020
Children's Literature, Fantasy, American Authors, American Dream, Lloyd Alexander, Ursula Le Guin, Taran Wanderer, A Wizard of Earthsea, Social Mobility,

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