The Water-Babies Essay - Masterplots II: Juvenile & Young Adult Literature Series The Water-Babies Analysis

Charles Kingsley

Masterplots II: Juvenile & Young Adult Literature Series The Water-Babies Analysis

The Water-Babies explicitly informs its young readers that there are serious problems to be faced in the world: poverty, abuse, and death among them. The work’s exploration of these unpleasant subjects reveals its author’s commitment, as an Anglican clergyman and Christian Socialist, to the spiritual and physical well-being of his fellow humans in an age when England was in the midst of its sometimes troubling transformation into the first industrialized nation in Europe with a colonial empire that stretched around the world. The Water-Babies also assures its readers, however, that there are solutions to these problems. The primary one is the individual’s difficult but necessary development into an adult who is both spiritually pure and morally aware of his or her responsibility to others—even those whom one may, with good reason, find reprehensible. Thus, as the work progressively makes clear, Tom cannot really grow up until his moral choices come from an inner sense of what is right, rather than from fear of reprisal—however just—from Mrs. Bedonebyasyoudid, and until he can learn to care about Mr. Grimes, the one whom he hates and fears the most.

In addition to its major emphasis on the process of redemption, The Water-Babies also assures children of the continuing presence of God in the natural world. From childhood, Kingsley had been an avid naturalist, and his tale shows his intimate knowledge and love of the creatures of the streams and seashores of England. The book abounds not only in a variety of species but also in...

(The entire section is 644 words.)