Young Adult Literature
Grant T. Smith, Ph. D.

Wilderness Survival Novels (near-death experience)


Three characteristics of survival novels:


1.Character changes and grows:There are physical changes, the protagonist becomes thinner and stronger!There are emotional changes, the protagonist learns about relationships with people, the land, and/or animals.The protagonist develops a keen sensitivity to the world.There are intellectual changes, the protagonist becomes aware of his/her fallibility.


2.Through a series of challenges, the protagonist digs deep into her soul to find the inner resources to stay alive.


3.Resolution:If adolescents with problems and confusion can survive situations with seemingly insurmountable obstacles, then maybe the readers can too.There is a transference of the wilderness experience to the personal experience, i.e. there is a relationship between the geographical journey and other possible journeys the protagonist (and readers) may take.

·The concept of individuation implies that the growing person takes increasing responsibility for what he does and what he is, rather than depositing this responsibility on the shoulders of those under whose influence and tutelage he has grown up.Individuation is the process of becoming a separate person who can act independently and accept responsibility for choices.

Notice that in Hatchet you have a one-word title.  The title of Julie of the Wolves suggests a connection to the Pack.  The Hatchet title suggests violence, the Julie of the Wolves title suggests that Julie is one of the community.  Hatchet is a survival tool.  Look for other parallels and differences in the two titles (and works) when yoiu discuss the protagonist, the central conflict, the resolution, the literary conventions, the themes, and the values in both books.

Stages in the Initiation Process (similar to the cycle the hero experiences in mythology)

Stage One
Stage Two
Stage Three
Margin, Transition
Aggregation, Re-incorporation
From childhood
From childhood to adulthood
Into society as an adult
Seclusion – symbolic period of gestation
Symbolic rebirth
Symbolic death
Instruction (mentor)
Establishment of identity

Bildungsroman (education novel)

·Usually autobiographical

·Protagonist grows up in a setting of constraint (social or intellectual)

·Father is hostile to protagonist’s creative instincts, antagonistic to his ambitions, and impervious to his new ideas

·Leaves repressive atmosphere at home (and innocence) to the big city—there his real education begins

·Direct experiences:two sexual experiences, one debasing, one exalting

·Soul searching

·Returns home older and wiser

·Conclusion is sometimes ambiguous; the protagonist may die, may still have an uncertain future, or may find fulfillment.

Female Bildungsroman

·Compromise – can demonstrate a “regression” from self-determined progression toward maturity

·Disillusionment – life does not offer limitless possibilities

·Environment is harsh, harmful, and hostile.

·Obstacles the female protagonist faces include gender.Her choices are different.

·Absent mentor – absent mother, little education, lessons of men aren’t appropriate

·Inward awakening – greater self knowledge that is connected to the community (the woman doesn’t become a “master” she becomes a companion)

·Aim of the female protagonist is marriage

·Many female protagonists end up mad or dead!