Mike Allen

Professor Tom Murray
Children’s Literature
15 January 2016
Character Development in Children’s Literature
The basis of any good story is strong characters. Strong characters are dynamic
ones; they change over the course of a story and develop. In children’s literature this
change is usually the maturation of the main adolescent protagonist. The most obvious
change for a young adult to make is to become a full-grown adult and join the adult
world. This maturation character arc is portrayed in many classic examples of children’s
literature including The Secret Garden, Charlotte’s Web, Tuck Everlasting, and A Bridge
to Terabithia.
In The Secret Garden the protagonist Mary begins the book as a bit of a brat. This
is mostly due to Mary being abandoned by the parental figures in her life, even before
they passed away. This brush with death causes Mary to grow up a little, but it is not
until she is confronted by the sickly Colin that she bucks up and shows an earnest change
of character. Colin is described as “he looked like a boy who had been ill.”1 This illness
is a reminder of mortality for the young Mary. This leads to Mary being more caring
towards others and empathetic of other people. Over time she develops feelings of pride
in seeing Colin get better and watching him grow into himself, he is described “with his
head up in the air and his eyes full of laughter, walked as strobgly and steadily as any boy

1 Burnett, Frances Hodgson. The Secret Garden. New York: Barnes & Noble, 2015. Print. Pg. 122.

You’re carrying on in a childish way. but ultimately Winnie decides to live a mortal life. 51. Stop your crying! I can’t stand hysterics. 182. Charlotte’s Web.B. He then pledges his friendship to those of Charlotte’s children who stay to live in the barn. Charlotte’s Web has two characters that grow throughout the novel. In the background of the story is a young girl named Fern who at the beginning of the book is a young tomboyish girl who likes to be around the barn animals. forever and ever.B. E. The concept of immortality is an alluring one. He shows maturity by caring for them before they hatch. Pg. 1952. Pg. and I want you to quiet down immediately. To them he proclaims “to you.in Yorkshire-Master Colin!”2 This pride for others is a sign of her maturity as she shows much growth from beginning to end of The Secret Garden. Print. Firstly Wilbur the pig grows throughout the story not only in physical stature but he matures throughout the novel as well.”4 This displays Wilbur’s ability to end the process of grieving for his lost friend Charlotte and to be a mature pig. 1952. Frances Hodgson. In Tuck Everlasting young Winnie learns of the gravity of death when presented with the option of immortality by drinking from a magical spring. Pg. New York: Harpercollins Publishers. 2015. New York: Barnes & Noble. He first matures after he discovers he is to be slaughtered. her daughters. The Secret Garden. but he calms down after Charlotte says “I am going to save you. Print. . E.”3 He later has to deal with death when Charlotte dies and he is left alone with her children. 4 White. 3 White. 291. I pledge my friendship. His initial reaction is that of horror. Later in the story her interests turn to boys and she hangs out with Wilbur less and less. Charlotte’s Web. Print. New York: Harpercollins Publishers. This shows a maturity of Winnie in seeing that not much good has come from the Tucks 2 Burnett. Charlotte’s Web shows these two characters maturations as parallels of growing up.

In this way Bridge to Terabithia displays the maturation of Jess as he grows from boy to young man.”5 This description of Jess’s posture is pretty clearly him sulking after getting beaten by Leslie in the race. In many of these stories the catalyst for the main characters maturation is death or an interaction with the concept of mortality. He reacts by “Jess started across the lower field. Throughout Bridge to Terabithia Jess grows into a young adult slowly. Pg. Print. and how they can move past it. These children’s literary classics show different ways that young adolescents can react to death. Early on in the story he does a poor job of dealing with the fact that he loses a foot race to the new girl Leslie. New York: HarperTrophy an imprint of Harper Collins. Katherine. 1977. 6 Paterson. and how this changes them is often a direct cause of maturity forced on them from a young age. Bridge to Terabithia. and making the wiser of the two situations given her experience with immortals. New York: HarperTrophy an imprint of Harper Collins. 35. In Bridge to Terabithia the protagonist Jess often shows signs of immaturity. 5 Paterson. This can put a lot in perspective for a young mind. Bridge to Terabithia. but the true catalyst for his maturity is when he recovers from his best friend Leslie’s death and makes his sister the new queen of Terabithia. Pg. Print. Jess hints to his sister she is the queen when bring her to ‘Terabithia’ and says “there’s a rumor going around that the beautiful girl arriving today might be the queen they’ve been waiting for.”6 This shows Jess’s maturity as he now is able to make time for his sister and accept the permanence of death by making his sister queen. Katherine. 63.immortality. This works much the same way in real life when a kid realizes that someday they will die. 1977. his hands still deep in his pockets. .

Tuck Everlasting 4. Burnett. E. 1977. New York: HarperTrophy an imprint of Harper Collins. Charlotte’s Web. New York: Barnes & Noble. 2015. Print. 2. Bridge to Terabithia. White. New York: Harpercollins Publishers. The Secret Garden. Katherine. Print. Paterson. Print. 1952.B. Frances Hodgson. 3.Bibliography: 1. .