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 Allegory and School Story

Lady Befuddled:     Why Sir Peabody, what are these pages here?

Sir Peabody:     One of our Patrons has requested a copy of The History of Master Jacky and Miss Harriet4 to be printed and bound for his son. 

Lady Befuddled:     What type of story is that?  Would it be at all suited for my son Thomas?

Sir Peabody:     Well, Madame, The History of Master Jack and Miss Harriet is actually a series of stories.  It is for the most part, what many of us would call, a school story, however is brightly highlighted with allegory.    

Lady Befuddled:     School Story?!  Why, those schools may give a boy connections and lead him into the world early, but theyíre filled with more mischief than benefit.  Iím not sure Iíd want my son Thomas to be reading any stories dealing with schools; itís probably filled solely with mischief.  And allegory, Iíve heard it does nothing but create a fantastical mind.  I wish Thomas to have nothing of the sort.

Harlow Hospital--collage.nhil.com

Sir Peabody:     Dear Lady Befuddled, you have walked into a shop undividedly aimed at improvement.  The utter thought that I would recommend a unruly book is offending.  However, I will excuse this offence in light of your Ladyís obvious ignorance on the matter.

You see, a school story is designed to encourage a child to learn.  The scenes are often set in school houses or around issues involving school, such as studying or discipline.  Pure allegorical stories involve worlds of fantasy with such mystical beings as witches or goblins.  School stories often use hints of allegory, but not to the extent of a pure allegorical tale.  Unlike an allegorical tale, school stories are always set in the real world.  It is usually only the character names that are allegorical.  For example, a character might be named Miss Lovegood or Sir Fairjudge.  Sometimes though a school story might include additional elements of allegory.  Take this garden scene on page 14 of The History of Master Jacky and Miss Harriot.  The rest of this chapter is set in a realistic world, but for one moment a mystical element reveals itself.  Of course, the mystical element is completely didactic.  In this passage Master Jacky and his cousin Tommy have learned the importance of hard work and diligence and the folly of vice. 

School stories demonstrate to children the benefits of staying in school and studying hard.  Showing students that each individual is responsible for determining his own future and that a right education increases happiness.  In school stories a strong education is powerful, at times outweighing birth right.  A poor boy can rise above the class he was born into if only he is studious and virtuous.

Lady Befuddled:     But Sir Peabody, I do not mean to question your knowledge and wisdom, seeing as your so learned in books and these matters, however I have seen many a young woman or man ruined by having the same hope which you just now described.  Even if a person has a grand education, it is not always possible to rise.  It seems to me awful misleading to give children such false hope.

pupil of Christ's Hospital--collage.nhil.com

Sir Peabody:     Madame, it may be false for some, but Ďtis not for the exercisers of true diligence.      

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