The Divine And The Marginal Essay Research

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The Divine And The Marginal Essay, Research Paper When relating the divine to the marginal, one is struck by the ambiguity of both terms. Adivine being can be supernatural, pure, sweet and naturally good, or, in contrast, bad,evil, vengeful, and inhumane. Marginality defines the place of ambiguity, the thin linebetween the normal and not-normal, the center of social chaos. Both divinity andmarginality blind us, forbid us to see a complete picture. Society and literature act outthe conflicts between good and evil, love and hate, the angelic and demonic child, but areblinded by the very nature of those concrete divisions of positive and negative. Divinitybecomes marginality in The Turn of the Screw; James deliberately constructs charactersthat conform so well to the social

expectation of perfection that they cannot be other thanthe marginal. Again, it comes down to the line between blindness and enlightenment; it isonly when we doubt and question reality that we can incorporate and comprehendmarginality. Children in Early Modern England describes a society that pushed lower classchildren even further into marginality; children had their own subculture that provided anon-adult view of the world and rejected adult systems of value, order and classification. This . . .juvenile subculture included a casual attitude to private property, an addiction tomischief, and a predilection for what most adults regarded as noise and dirt (Thomas 57). Both linked to and separate from the adult world, these children passed the thin line; theywere children but unable

to act as children. Besides [s]hop-lifting, pick-pocketing, andstealing pidgeons and chickens. . . , [they had] no more idea of what we call justice than.. . blackbirds. . .have of nets. . . (Dickens, qtd. in Thomas 56). The marginality of thesechildren is confirmed by their poverty, their education, their social class, and their age;what makes the social judgment against them final is the fact that they have no adultrepresentative to speak for them within the system. Without a voice credible to society,they have no opportunity to define themselves beyond that marginality, so they create asubculture that re-confirms their own identity within– and despite– their marginal status. The marginal status of the children discussed in Children in Early Modern Englandrelates them to

the divine: …children [were] perceived as innocent and good and madeinto a focal point of attention (46) in spite of the fact that they were also . . .thought toepitomize original sin (45). Children are born into this world innocent and pure even inthe face of original sin. Those encouraged to develop reason, to interact socially, and tomaintain beauty reflect that which is innocent and pure; those unfortunate enough to existoutside the boundaries of acceptable society become the embodiment of original sin:uncontrollable wretches pissing upon stones in the Churche (57). Society examinedthe gender roles of children in the same light; girls, the origin of sin and damnation, wereexpected to perfect themselves socially and morally, while boys, free of the stain of guiltover the

human condition, were at times even encouraged to push the limits of normalsocial play and behavior . The focal point of society splits to include both the devilishand the divine, the pure and the stained; instead of recognizing that these dual oppositionsrevolve around each other, society creates absolute definitions. The ideals of Romanticism influenced the way society depicted and dealt withchildren. The idea of the divine, romantic child became the new focal point by whichsociety interpreted itself and its systems. Children were seen to have . . . qualities whichmake [them] Godlike, fit to be worshipped, . . . the embodiment of hope (Cunningham78). Children . . .[had] the radiance and innocence of reinstated divinity. . . (Ruskin,qtd. in Cunningham 76), they were . . .still