Jean E. Brown and Elaine C. Stephens, Editors
Weaving elements of Jungian theory with feminist criticism, Sherron Killingsworth Roberts provides an informative perspective on the archetypal patterns of Mother in three Newbery books published between 1922 and 2001. Traditionally, much literary criticism of young adult literature has focused on the adolescent search for identity. In her discussion of the female rescuer, she provides readers with an insightful vehicle for revisiting the interaction among characters in young adult fiction. Roberts presents a convincing rationale for using literacy criticism to help students explore how cultural symbols give meaning to our lives. Using Jungian theory of the archetypes of Mother and feminist theory that analyzes gender bias based on stereotypes, Roberts presents us with a well-researched framework for applying these theories.
— JEB and ECS
The Female Rescuer in Newbery Fiction:
Exploring the Archetype of Mother
Sherron Killingsworth Roberts
I've just finished rereading Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club , and I am struck at how forever connected we are to the mothering we receive, and how the connection extends back into generations seemingly lost, and forward into the daily lives of subsequent generations. Tremendous power exists in mothering, whether in our lives or in literature. No wonder the archetype of Mother continues to be detected. Because revealing the archetypes present in Newbery books can allow students to examine literature on a deeper level, this essay seeks to highlight the archetypal patterns of Mother.
As part of my research, I find myself reading, rereading, and analyzing Newbery books, looking for windows into culture, families, and gender. Newbery Medal and Honor books provide an interesting avenue to view some of the most influential children's literature with publication dates spanning from the 20s to present because they are highly accessible and often recommended. I think these books offer a unique reflection of our culture's images of heroes, since they are written by the dominant sector of adults for the less powerful sector of children and adolescents. As part of a larger content analysis of Newbery books ( Roberts, 1987 ), I coded only three books as having female rescuers of male protagonists. This essay seeks to examine the identity of female characters who rescue male protagonists in Newbery fiction, and to realize their archetypal roles of Mother. Who are these rare female rescuers? What common characteristics do they share?
Taking a Look at Female Rescuers through a Locus of Control Framework
As I updated my database to include 148 fictional works (Roberts, 1987, 2000 ) accorded the Newbery Medal and Honor Award, I coded only three male protagonists as being rescued by female characters. The only three female characters who rescued male protagonists in Newbery books from 1922 to 2001 are Polynesia the parrot in The Voyages of Dr. Dolittle (Lofting, 1922 ), Charlotte the spider in Charlotte's Web (White, 1952 ), and Amanda Beale in Maniac Magee (Spinelli, 1990 ). Even though these books might not be typical YA, they hold layers of deeper meaning especially when one considers the notions of archetypes, and may serve as worthy examples of the archetype of Mother. Providing excerpts or a quick reread of Charlotte's Web and Dr. Dolittle , and a reading of Maniac Magee , perhaps in literature study groups, might provide a more accessible and expedient route to teaching early concepts about archetypes of Mothers that are easily transferable to more advanced works.
These three strong female characters were identified out of the 148 books using the following schema based on locus of control (see Appendix A for operational definitions of each of these categories). The first four categories (a-d) collapse into internal locus of control by protagonists solving the central conflict through:
- creative reasoning or intellect,
- conflict ceasing to be perceived as a problem,
- physical means or tools, or
cooperative efforts or compromise.
The last four categories (e-h) collapse into external locus of control by the protagonist solving the central conflict through:
- unrequested intervention of same sex character/s,
- unrequested intervention of opposite sex character/s,
- unrequested intervention of both sex characters, or
- some supernatural or natural occurrence.
Table 1 provides the results of coding 148 books using the coding scheme according to internal and external locus of control. While each category held aspects that are interesting for further study, the small number of female characters who rescued male protagonists (3) in category f prompted me to initiate the study presented here.
|Sample Size = 148|
|Internal Locus of Control|
|A: creative reasoning||9 (15.5%)||8 (8.8%)|
|B: adjustment factor||18 (31.0%)||17 (18.9%)|
|C: physical means||4 (6.9%)||11 (12.2%)|
|D: cooperative means||7 (12.0%)||5 (5.5%)|
|External Locus of Control|
|E: same sex intervention||2 (3.4%)||25 (27.8%)|
|F: opposite sex intervention||9 (15.5%)||3 (3.3%)|
|G: both sex intervention||3 (5.2%)||4 (4.4%)|
|H: super/nat'l intervention||6 (10.3%)||17 (18.9%)|
|Totals||58 (100%)||90 (100%)|
|Sample Size = 148|
I wanted to utilize locus of control as the conceptual framework for the coding schema because it captures how male and female protagonists resolve the conflict ( Roberts, 1987 ). Rotter's locus of control is a dichotomy of perception that attributes both successes and failures to either internal or external causes. Those who believe that events are controlled largely by forces outside themselves such as powerful others, or luck are ascribed external locus of control. Conversely, people who rate high in internal locus of control believe that they largely determine their own situation and destiny.
As you can see, the external locus of control coding schema subsumed protagonists who were aided by outside sources and allowed me to focus on rescuing behavior because they were coded as unrequested intervention by the same or opposite sex.
The Process of Analyzing the Female Rescuers
Using literary criticism as the general technique, I reread the books to record the commonalities and differences among each of the three female characters who rescued male protagonists. In order to provide a baseline for rater reliability, a second reader also read each of the three books. First, our coding of all three books according to Roberts (1987) locus of control categories matched as being category f . Second, we separately took notes in a narrative format in order to outline ways that the three females who rescued males were either alike or different. Following Glesne and Peshkin's ( 1992 ) recommendations for analyzing narrative data, a progressive process of reading, taking notes, and sorting for patterns was used to analyze these rescuers. We both provided supporting quotations to document any patterns. These patterns were then synthesized into commonalities or themes with direct quotations from each of the books maintained as supporting evidence.
Who is This Female Rescuer in Newbery Fiction?
Who is she; who is this female rescuer? In considering the three females, the most striking commonality among the female rescuers is that they each represent the archetypal Mother. Although none of the three females who rescued male protagonists is biologically related to the protagonists, each acts as a maternal figure to the male protagonist. When the second reader and I first revealed our lists of character traits for each of the characters, I detected the pattern of the archetypal Mother. I brought the following documented character traits to the discussion table: nurturing, bossy or directive, helpful, patient, willing to make sacrifices, organizing, and facilitating maturity. Simultaneously yet separately, the second reader noted the following common traits among the three characters: practical voices or planners, unselfish and supportive, persistent and hard working, helpful in times of crisis, confident, and nurturing. These characteristics were not a priori, but emerged separately, yet the discussion noted the traits as similar. Quotations from each book supported our common character traits, and further discussion sealed our agreement that each of these three female characters possessed maternal qualities (nurturing, scolding, sacrificing, etc.) to illuminate the archetype of Mother. Continued analysis revealed that not only did each of the female characters clearly reveal the archetype of Mother, but that each of the three male protagonists were parentless, homeless, abandoned, or without a mother, thereby further supporting the need for the archetypal Mother.
Furthermore, the traditional notions of rescuers or heroes are called into question as we get to know these three female characters, Polynesia, Charlotte, and Amanda Beale, who rescued male protagonists. First, let us examine archetypal and feminist criticism in regard to mothers and rescuers, and then let us investigate each female character as Mother.
Archetypal Criticism and Feminist Theory as Ways of Analyzing Rescuers
In analyzing the female rescuers as Mothers, I first applied Jungian theory ( Jung, 1959 ; Knapp, 1984 , Rowland, 1999 ), which highlights archetypes as a kind of template or pattern in terms of literary criticism. Jung first linked the idea of archetypes found within primitive myths and rites (in much the same way dreams hold symbolic meaning) to offer an explanation of how symbols give meaning to our lives ( Jung, 1964 ). Archetypes are "primordial images" formed by repeated experiences in our ancestors' lives, and inherited through the collective unconscious of the human race ( Riccio,1980 ). Students of YA literature can be guided to apply archetypal criticism themselves using these easier books as a stepping stone to more difficult and longer books.
In the same way traditional literature possesses archetypes, modern fictional works can hold these recurring images of universal significance as well. Jungian literary criticism detects archetypal places, journeys, or characters, such as the divine Child, the innocent Savior, the great Mother, the spiritual or wise Father, and the enchanted Prince ( Chesebro, Bertelsen & Gencarelli, 1990 ; Knapp, 1984 ; Lasser, 1979 , Rowland, 1999 ). Possible archetypes or templates that female characters might represent are seen in the following common archetypes: (a) the sinister witch or offensive person who needs either redemption or conquering, (b) the spunky trickster who devices a way to intervene, making things happen and often resolving the conflict, (c) the innocent maiden who by her sheer association or companionship brings good fortune and resolution, and, of course, (d) the archetype of Mother who nurtures, scolds, and sacrifices to assist ( Rowland, 1999 ). "Sometimes the good mother is dead, or dies at an early point in the story, so that the hero is doubly severed from her when he sets out on his adventure." ( Hourihan, 1997 , p. 163). Often, in these cases, a new mother figure arises to rescue and protect the naive and motherless protagonist. Certainly, as young adults read these influential and highly available Newbery books, the archetypes of Mother to the motherless are readily seen in each of these three books.
In addition to archetypal criticism, feminist theory might be another means of empowering students to interpret the characteristics of these female rescuers ( Gilligan, 1982 ; Polster, 1992 ; Stearney, 1994 ; Vandergrift, 1993 , 1996 ). Miriam Polster argues that alternative views of what constitutes a hero should be considered rather than the "male-skewed images" which contain only physical strength and aggressive behavior (cited in Crew, 1996 ). Rather than traditional heroic acts which call the hero away from family and the familiar to the unknown, women's heroism ( Polster, 1992 ) often goes undetected because it is "rooted in the particular circumstances and values of women's lives, where connection and relationship may not be quickly stated in adversarial terms" (p. 18).
By examining situational archetypes such as birth/death/rebirth, Sanderson (2001) echoes what other experts ( Appleman, 2000 ; Bonnycastle, 1996 ; Probst, 1988 ) have recommended in encouraging secondary teachers to share the multiplicity of lenses inherent in literary theory with their students. Once junior high and high school students learn various types of criticism such as feminist or archetypal criticism, they may be brought into richer discussion surrounding questions such as: Are these female rescuers a reflection of feminist ways of thinking? Or, are they archetypes as old as time? Indeed, could these three interesting, strong, and influential female characters somehow be both? No doubt, teaching literary criticism to adolescents is a means of empowering readers in their interpretations of YA literature ( Moore, 1997 ). Next, let us take a comprehensive look at who plays the role of female rescuers by analyzing these strong female characters individually.
Polynesia the Parrot, The Duality of Mother
The earliest novel to be coded as a female character rescuing a male protagonist was provided within the book, The Voyages of Dr. Dolittle ( Lofting, 1922 ). Polynesia the parrot provided a vivid archetype of Mother. In fact, the duality of Mother as described by Bettelheim (1975) into the evil stepmother and the uncontaminated good fairy godmother that is _ever-present in fairy tales, was easily seen here. Throughout much of the book, Polynesia's role is focused upon her directive, even bossy, nature.
If there is anything happening I am not quite sure of, she is always able to put me right, to tell me exactly about it. In fact sometimes, I almost think I ought to say that this book was written by Polynesia instead of me. ( Lofting, 1922 , p.2)
Poly also serves as a practical voice reminding the male protagonist to be on his best behavior:
Great work! But listen. I smell danger. I think you had better get back to the ship now as quickly and quietly as you can. Put your overcoat on over that giddy suit. I don't like the looks of this crowd .... I think this would be a good time for us to get away.
( Lofting, 1922 , p.194)
In her wise way, Poly plays the role of monitor who watches Tommy and Dr. Dolittle's behavior and reminds them to consider the real world. She reminds them to keep things in perspective and to see the long-range picture. When Dr. Dolittle is too unselfish, Poly notes,
There he goes, lending his last blessed penny ... all the money we had for the whole trip! Now we haven't got the price of a postage stamp ... Well, let's pray that we don't run out of food. Why doesn't he give them the ship and just walk home?
( Lofting, 1922 , p. 158)
Listen to the tone of voice Poly uses when she commands Tommy to obey her: "We must search the hold. If this is allowed to go on, we'll all be starving before a week is out. Come downstairs with me, Tommy, and we'll look into this matter" ( Lofting, 1922 , p. 163). No doubt, this is the mother we all need to help us realize the reality of day-to-day living and surviving. This practical side of the duality of Mother represents what Bettelheim (1975) refers to as the evil stepmother and even though it is helpful to children in the long run, a mother's persistence nags at us all. Psychoanalytically dividing Mother into these two sides creates a safe place for us to hate the nagging side of mothers while simultaneously loving them with equal zeal for saving us, as fairy godmothers.
The good side (as represented by fairy godmothers in fairy tales) of Poly's duality might best be illustrated by her constant unselfishness. Poly, like the stereotypical mother, makes physical and mental sacrifices for Tommy by staying awake all night to guide the ship safely in its route:
Besides that, Polynesia, who was an older sailor than any of us, and really knew a lot about running ships, seemed to be always awake-except when she took a couple of winks in the sun, standing on one leg beside the wheel. ( Lofting, 1922 , p. 162)
Polynesia captures the role of fairy godmother at the end of the book by intervening without any request from Tommy. Just when everything looks hopeless and Tommy Stubbins needs help the most, Polynesia the parrot comes to the rescue and plans every detail to return him home. In this role, Polynesia is the archetype of the fairy godmother who arranges everything from convincing the snail to providing transportation to occupying Dr. Dolittle. All is well after the archetypal godmother works her organizational magic to secure Tommy'S dream of returning home. The directive and practical voice as well as the protective custody and unselfish nature of Polynesia exemplify the traditional archetypal Mother.
Charlotte, the Nurturer
The second book, Charlotte's Web (White, 1952 ), that contains a female character who rescued a male protagonist also involves nonhuman characters like Polynesia. The character of Charlotte the spider in Charlotte's Web (White, 1952 ) provides a strong example of a female character rescuing a male protagonist. Charlotte is the archetypal Mother throughout the book. In an article focusing on "mothering," Rollin (1990, p. 44) notes that" ... Charlotte the spider takes over the mothering of Wilbur—a different form of mothering." Unlike Fern who originally fed and cared for Wilbur, Charlotte never feeds Wilbur. Additionally, Charlotte and Wilbur never touch each other, either. Yet, Charlotte establishes herself as a maternal figure to Wilbur. Listen to the tone of this statement by Charlotte to Wilbur: "That remains to be seen. But I am going to save you, and I want you to quiet down immediately. You're carrying on in a childish way. Stop your crying! I can't stand hysterics" (White, 1952 , p. 51). With words as fodder rather than the food at the trough, Charlotte feeds and mothers Wilbur. Throughout the book, her words carry admonishments, orders, advice, chastisements, compliments, lullabies, stories, and finally the very messages woven in the web that save Wilbur (Rollin, 1990 ).
Indeed, the "novel's references to Charlotte and Wilbur as 'friends' probably results from the absence of touch and feeding in their relationship, but Charlotte is no less a mother object" ( Rollin, 1990 , p. 44). New to the barn, Wilbur is naive and learning about the world in the barn; he is definitely in need of a friend and a motherly one at that. Charlotte is the one who aids Wilbur in his journey to maturity. Taking maternal charge, Charlotte even patiently puts Wilbur to bed.
"May 1 go...see if 1 left any of my supper in the trough?"
"Very well," said Charlotte. "But 1 want you in bed again without delay."
( White, 1952 , p. 64)
Charlotte's steadfast caring and sacrifice is displayed throughout the book with examples such as the following:
"Tell me a story, Charlotte!", said Wilbur, as he lay waiting for sleep to come. "Tell me a story!"
So Charlotte, although she, too, was tired, did what Wilbur wanted. "Once upon a time..."
( White, 1952 , p. 102)
As well as showing motherly affection, Charlotte assertively stands up for Wilbur and helps him overcome difficult interactions with the other animals in the barnyard, for example, who say he is the smelliest animal: "Let Wilbur alone!" she (Charlotte) said. "He has a perfect right to smell, considering his surroundings. You are no sweet pea yourself" ( White, 1952 , p. 61). Even Charlotte's orders such as"...now stop arguing and go get some sleep!" ( White, 1952 , p. 91) all prepare Wilbur to grow into the unselfish pig who will love and care for Charlotte's babies upon her death. Charlotte's ingenuity, assertiveness, and skill in creating the web certainly saves Wilbur's life, dismissing the certainty of his slaughter. Charlotte not only rescues Wilbur, but also transforms him through her nurturing friendship. Charlotte, as the archetypal Mother, is able to lead Wilbur out of his naive world that ignores the inevitability of her death or of his becoming bacon. Charlotte, as well as mothers in the real world, prepare us for becoming the next generation and for ultimately living without them.
Amanda Beale, Androgynous Mom
The character of Amanda Beale in the story of Maniac Magee ( Spinelli, 1990 ) is the last book among the 148 Newbery Award winners to be coded as having a female character who came to the aid of the male protagonist. Amanda Beale, who is often cast as a "spunky heroine", is also a solid representation of the maternal archetype because she informs Maniac's naivete, she is directive and protective, and she willingly makes sacrifices for his well being.
Amanda Beale is a recurring female figure in Maniac Magee's life, unlike the traditional male idea of the hero from afar. Amanda Beale, who is African American, sensitively notices a white boy who appears homeless standing in the middle of her sidewalk. Further, while Amanda is tough and savvy on the edges, she notices that he is helpless to know how to interact with Black folks in her part of town. Amanda's role as the maternal archetype expands to show Maniac Magee how the world works, intellectually and socially. Homeless and without parents, Maniac Magee is in need of someone to provide knowledge and Amanda is quickly cast into that role. In fact, one of Amanda's first significant interactions with Maniac Magee is symbolic in that she loans her treasured "A" encyclopedia to him: "Amanda, upon giving up her most prized possession, stopped and turned. 'Ohhh,' she squeaked. She tore the book from the suitcase, hurled it at him-'Here!' and she dashed into school." ( Spinelli, 1990 , p. 13). What better symbol of being the disseminator of knowledge than giving him the first volume of the encyclopedia set?
Amanda also possesses the protective instincts and drive of a mother grizzly bear. Just as a mother guards her young, Amanda attempts to protect Maniac Magee in various ways. In the following instance, Amanda physically saves Maniac Magee from the gang and the gang leader, Mars Bars, by bravely kicking Mars Bars:
"You ripped my book."
Mars Bar's eyes went big as headlights, "I did not."
"You did. You lie." She let the bike fall to Maniac. She grabbed the book and started kicking Mars Bar in his beloved sneakers. "I got a little brother and a little sister that crayon all over my books, and 1 got a dog that eats them and poops on them, and that's just inside my own family, and I'm not — gonna have nobody - -else messin ' — with my books ! You under- stand ?"
( Spinelli, 1990 , p. 39)
Soon Maniac Magee comes to a physical and symbolic crossroad in his life. Maniac Magee never perceives the unwritten rules of his social system, as evidenced by this scene in which Amanda Beale's dad attempts to drive the homeless Magee to his nonexistent house:
Mr. Beale knew what his passenger (Maniac Magee) apparently didn't: East End is East End and West End was West End, and the house this white lad (Magee) was pointing to was filled with black people, just like every other house on up to Hector Street.
( Spinelli, 1990 , p. 43)
With consistency, Amanda is there to coach Maniac through the ordeal of losing his innocence in terms of crossing the color line:
About never crossing the "boundary" — why were they laughing? The Cobras were standing at Hector Street. Hector Street was the boundary between the East and West ends. Or, to put it another way, between the blacks and whites. Not that you never saw a white in the East End or a black in the West End. People did cross the line now and then, especially if they were adults and it was daylight. But nighttime,forget it. And if you were a kid, day or night, forget it.
( Spinelli, 1990 , p.32)
Throughout the book, Amanda tries to show him and tell him about these boundaries and inform him of the dangers inherent in their racist culture. Ironically, it is Amanda and her family, rather than Maniac Magee, who are the ones to reap some of the pain from crossing the line when someone spray paints "Fish Belly" on the side of her home.
While Amanda Beale portrays the maternal archetype by providing a window out of his naivete and in her role as his protector, she also portrays a conventional heroine in the masculine tradition of employing physical power, such as kicking Mars Bars. Moreover, in the last chapter, Amanda leaves her own familiar setting (just as the masculine idea of hero suggests) to solve the conflict surrounding Maniac Magee's need for a home. In the middle of the night, with Mars Bars trailing, Amanda physically rescues Maniac Magee from the buffalo pen at the zoo and takes him to her own house, sacrificing her own room and bed.
Valuing Masculine or Feminine Heroes/Heroines or Not?
Deciding whether or not the archetype of Mother as heroine elevates or denigrates women's status is an interesting question for feminist theorists, educators, and students. While allowing female characters the freedom to assume the same sorts of power roles that a masculine view of heroism purports (i.e., physical means, from afar), traditional viewpoints that hold masculine heroes supreme may provide little validation for the long-term courageous and nurturing acts of either gender.
A sense of impartiality or fairness can be derived by educators and their students as they make this important discovery: Traditionally feminine kinds of nurturing should be valued as just as powerful portrayals of heroism as the heroism of a stereotypic knight on a steed. On the other hand, acknowledging the archetype of Mother in heroic acts may threaten to reduce women back to the stereotypical female who constantly takes care of others, rescues them, never takes care of her own needs, and is essentially confined to the home. This way of thinking may even exacerbate the problem by being what some in the 90s called "enablers." In my experience, opening up more androgynous views of males and females in the role of rescuer with young adults can enhance future discussion on this topic. No doubt, both literature and the real world need avenues that allow men to be more nurturing and women to be more physically assertive.
Lessons Learned: The Importance of Sharing Theories of Literary Criticism
"The main reason for studying theory at the same time as literature is it forces you to deal consciously with the problem of ideologies... There are many truths and the one you will find depends partly on the ideology you start with. If this situation sounds depressingly complex, it can later turn out to be both exciting and challenging ... It helps you discover elements of your own ideology, and understand why you hold certain values unconsciously. It means no authority can impose a truth on you in a dogmatic way — and if some authority does try, you can challenge that truth in a powerful way... Theory is subversive because it puts authority into question."
First, the female rescuers in these three pieces of Newbery fiction may serve as a feasible and enjoyable vehicle to highlight the power of literary criticism for secondary students. Bonnycastle (1996) notes that helping young adults understand literary theories and ideologies not only helps students uncover layers of meaning in literature, but it helps them sort through and discover who they are and how personal ideologies fit into larger world views. Appleman (2000) promotes the notion of including literary criticisms other than the traditional "cultural transmissiveness" or the more modern "reader-response theory" ( Probst, 1988 ). She encourages teaching high school students the following contemporary literary theories: reader response theory, Marxist literary theory, feminist literary theory, and deconstruction theory, each of which will significantly enhance students' literary experiences by exposing a range of interpretive choices. While she did not include archetypal theory as a contemporary theory, it is another effective lens with which to view literature. Surely, teaching archetypal theory ( Sanderson, 2001 ) as well as feminist theory alongside the three novels included in this essay would open up interpretive possibilities for students' future reading.
Lessons Learned: The Importance of Examining Female Rescuers
"Women's heroism has been equally brave and equally original as that of men. But because in some forms it differs from the traditional pattern of heroism, it has often gone unrecognized ... "
First, the important, albeit rare, contributions of these female characters serve as powerful role models for readers of all ages. Second, realizing the influence, popularity, longevity (from 1922 to present), and the sheer availability of Newbery Medal and Honor books make this population of stories a valuable collection for future analyses. Fortunately, the original schema based on internal and external locus of control served as a capable filter for capturing both the traditionally masculine and feminine ideas of heroism. However, what is disturbing is the total absence of females in heroic roles other than that of Mother. In any case, both males and females are in equal need of the diversity of strong characters to provide examples of femininity and masculinity that shatter stereotypic roles.
My hope is that, this study will provide insights for educators who share the dual challenge of providing students with literature that includes the diversity of robust female characters and of teaching theories of literary criticism so students may better understand the roles of rescuers and heroes. No doubt, these books may serve as good fodder for YA readers to begin examining literature critically. Using feminist theory and/or archetypal criticism accentuates the importance of examining relationships among gender roles, various archetypes, and stereotypic characters. Whether books contain blatant stereotypes or shatter stereotypic roles, YA readers can learn from them by discussing and defining the roles and their own opinions, hopes, and dreams surrounding them. In particular, The Voyages of Dr. Dolittle ( Lofting, 1922 ), Charlotte's Web (White, 1952 ), and Maniac Magee ( Spinelli, 1990 ) may serve readers and researchers well as either a window into our personal feminist viewpoints or as a mirror reflecting the larger culture, particularly the intense archetype of Mother.
Sherron Killingsworth Roberts is an Assistant Professor of Education at the University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida.
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Operational Definitions of Categories in Internal and External LOC Schema
Note: Of particular interest to the readers of this essay may be the operational definitions of Categories F which highlight the rescuing behavior of other characters.
Category A: The protagonist overcomes conflict through his or her own creative reasoning or intellect. This category represents the concept of outsmarting or tricking the opposing force or forces. Quite often the plot involves using readily available resources in a clever or novel way to solve the problem. Another way the protagonist might use his or her reasoning or intellectual powers was to make a decision to overcome his or her own faults or weaknesses. This could be termed a maturity factor which is brought into play be the protagonist's decision to rise to the occasion.
Category B: The protagonist overcomes the conflict through some adjustment factor attitudinally. That is, the conflict ceases to be perceived as a problem. In this case, the central conflict or problem does not go away, not is it actively resolved. From within the protagonist, however, what once seemed a terrible source of conflict is eventually resolved within the protagonist's own mind so that the protagonist persists. Nothing else changes, except for attitude. The protagonist eventually comes to grips with a problem or conflict, reshapes or reconfigures the problem, and accepts it, usually because it is a problem that cannot easily be altered. To code for this category, coders must ask if the conflict/ problem/situation still persists, then it may be coded in this category.
Category C: The protagonist overcomes the conflict through physical means or through use of physical tools. Any involvement of bodily strength or coordination, which stops or averts the conflict, is classified within this category. The activity may range from a physical act such as pulling whiskers to a violent act such as killing. Hitting, kicking, slapping, tripping, tackling, running or biting are examples of the kinds of physical solutions to conflict, which fall under this category. Also, physical use of tools is considered part of this category. Throwing objects, creating physical barriers, the use of a bat, gun, hammer, etc. is considered using tools to resolve the conflict. This category may constitute other physical actions such as repairing a house, constructing a shelter, pulling a sword from a stone, or dragging an object or person to safety. Ifa question exists as to whether the book should be coded as category C or another, the coder should ask him/herself what the tone/themes of the book reflect. If they reflect the themes of physical survival, then the book should be coded as C.
Category D: The protagonist overcomes conflict through some cooperative effort or through compromise. Although this category involves more than one person, it collapses into internal locus of control because of one overriding factor: the protagonist must request the aid of help of another in whatever fashion is best suited. Keeping in mind that there are many forms of conflict over which humans have no real control, such as earthquake, kidnapping, or shipwreck, the protagonists (who are usually children) must show the presence of mind and of their internal strength to request help in such situations. The request must be directed toward a specific person. The request may be in written or verbal form, but to be classified in this category, it must be stated or agreed in order to constitute a request (a wish is not sufficient). Compromise is another resolution of conflict, which involves more than one person, but it necessitates agreement on both sides. In order to be coded D for compromise, remember the compromise does not have to be the protagonist's original idea. This cooperative effort must not be considered just a token concession to the other side, but is a straightforward exchange involving some give and take on both sides. If the protagonist agrees to settle the conflict through compromise and to uphold their part of the bargain, an internal decision has occurred to create this solution.
Category E: The protagonist overcomes conflict through some unrequested intervention of a character or characters of the same sex. This category was delineated from the cooperation and compromise category be the word "unrequested." Sometimes either the protagonist does not perceive the conflict or he or she was insufficient to resolve the conflict, so the author assigns another character to intervene and rescue the protagonist or solve the conflict. These characters could act together as equal partner or as helpers to each other. The most important factor is that the protagonist was given help without request . Here if the protagonist were male, a male character (or characters) provides the solution to the conflict. By the same token, if the protagonist were female, then the source of intervention has to come from another female character or characters.
Category F: The protagonist overcomes conflict through some unrequested intervention of a character or characters of the opposite sex. This category differs only from the previous category because of the sex of the person or persons who intervene. These characters could act together as equal partner or as helpers to each other. The most important factor is that the protagonist was given help without request. If the protagonist were male, then the character providing the solution to the conflict has to be female. Conversely, if the protagonist were female, then a male character or characters are assigned by the author to intervene to resolve the conflict.
Category G: The protagonist overcomes conflict through some unrequested intervention of a character or characters of both sexes. This category was created and added after the first pilot study to provide for the intervention of a team or couple of persons who include characters of both genders. Sometimes, both male and female participants offer a solution to the conflict. Quite often, these characters are in the form of siblings, parents, and friends, or any of these combinations.
Category H: The protagonist overcomes the conflict through some supernatural or natural or non-human occurrence. Sometimes some unexpected outside happening resolves the conflict for the protagonist. An example of this category would be a conflict situation in which a protagonist cannot face up to pitching for the team finals and the game is conveniently rained out. It is important to remember that for this category, the setting of the book does not have to be a supernatural setting. Or, some protagonist receives some divine knowledge of where to find his or her lost sibling. Another example would be a case in which the protagonist is put in danger by the opposing force, but is rescued by a pet, wild animal (not a personified animal), or some magical machinery. This is termed a natural occurrence in the sense that a realistic animal or type of machinery possesses no sense of logic concerning this intervention. The happenings within this category may be termed fate, luck, destiny, providence, or God's will, but they all constitute a power or strength from outside sources.
The author wishes to acknowledge Dr. Donna Niday and Dr. Dick Zbaracki at Iowa State University for their helpful comments on earlier drafts of this manuscript.