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Title: Is Richmal Crompton a ‘Conservative Modernist’? Re-reading Just William
Authors: Chakraborty, Soumyadeep
Keywords: conservationist
Issue Date: 27-Feb-2022
Publisher: Registrar, Vidyasagar University, Midnapore.
Series/Report no.: Journal of the Department of English. Vol. 15 2022;
Abstract: With several ground-breaking books of literature, 1922 witnessed the appearance of Richmal Crompton’s Just William in the realm of children’s literature with a new benchmark of market saleability and general appeal for the ‘popular’. The sustaining appeal of Just William made Crompton go for an adventure series that continued till 1969, and that provided us with a saga of enthralling adventures of a pre-pubescent child protagonist William with his friends, the outlaws, the cops, the cowboys and the robbers. What prevents the text from being a prototypical children’s adventure fiction is the portrayal of the child-protagonist, the youngest son of an upper-middle-class family living in an English village, amidst the dualism of dream and reality, confusion and conviction. But in Forever England (1991) Alison Light criticises Crompton for making the text stuck somewhere between conservative rootedness and modernist principles in England (238- 39). Highlighting Crompton’ sinclination towards the conservationist Tory ideals of the early twentieth century and her faith in the potency of the English class system, critic William Whyte goes further to call her a ‘conservative modernist’ (“Just William? Richmal Crompton and Conservative Fiction” 140). Calling Crompton a ‘conservative modernist’ in the context of her portrayal of William is undermining her pessimistic reflection on the general nature of man to stick to the past, on people’s reluctance in adapting liberal and socialist ideals of the time that could overturn the stagnated bourgeois values. Looking resolutely backwards, while the ‘conservative modernists’ were ‘full of nostalgia for a mythical past’, Crompton’s William represents a democratically functioning and dynamically formed futuristic vision. My paper, at this juncture, seeks to critique the stereotypical branding of Richmal Crompton as a ‘conservative modernist’ in the light of her portrayal of William and explore how Just William, thriving in dualism at different levels, tends to assert a dynamic sense of modernism to arrive at newer socio-political equations and aesthetic paradigm.
ISSN: 0973-3671
Appears in Collections:Journal of the Department of English - Vol 15 [2022]

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