Hans Christian Andersen Essay - Critical Essays (Masterplots II: Juvenile & Young Adult Biography Series)


The major part of Godden’s account, covering Andersen’s amazing rise from poverty to a position as a major European writer, reads like one of those novels of a young person’s determined struggle to succeed against both social odds and prejudice. Many of Andersen’s contemporaries advised him to settle for less and become an artisan or, later, not to strive for fame as an artist. Godden’s Andersen staunchly resists all such temptations and brilliantly succeeds in reaching his goal. Godden gives the readers a very good sense of the obstacles that Andersen had to overcome: His society was a static one with little upward mobility, and in order to climb up the social ladder, it was absolutely imperative to gain the education that the sons—not yet the daughters—of the upper echelons of the bourgeoisie were given. Godden presents a sympathetic picture of Andersen’s many patrons and marvels at Andersen’s remarkable ability to gain the attention and goodwill of such figures. When they scolded Andersen for not studying hard enough or did not take his writing seriously, they were trying to mold the young man to fit into their social set. Later biographers of Andersen are more apt to see conflicts between Andersen and not only his patrons but also their very class, which adopted Andersen and determined the values to which he had to adapt. Thus, such later critics have shown more poignantly that, even if Andersen fully enjoyed being a part of a patrician class, he still retained a proletarian consciousness...

(The entire section is 617 words.)