What kind of reality is reflected in children's literature? In this article Anne Scott MacLeod suggests that one can come to understand a society's mood—the concerns of individuals about what is and what should be—by analyzing the literature written for children in that society. Viewing children's fiction of the early nineteenth century against the social background of the time, the author shows how the stories reveal Jacksonian Americans' concerns for the conservation of a particular kind of moral character that appeared threatened by social change. Thus,MacLeod argues that the primary function of children's fiction in Jacksonian America was not entertainment but the moral education of a new generation, emphasizing social responsibility in contrast to the spirit of individual aggrandizement that seemed, to these authors, to endanger their world.

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