What are some descriptions and examples of the innocent youth archetype in literature?

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The archetype of the innocent youth is pervasive in literature. It is typically associated with coming-of-age stories, where the main character grows up, matures, and learns about the world. Their naïveté and good nature serve them well and prevent them from becoming disheartened or downtrodden, or worse, corrupted, while they...

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The archetype of the innocent youth is pervasive in literature. It is typically associated with coming-of-age stories, where the main character grows up, matures, and learns about the world. Their naïveté and good nature serve them well and prevent them from becoming disheartened or downtrodden, or worse, corrupted, while they mature in a cruel world.

Some excellent examples of this are Ponyboy from The Outsiders, who is innocent, though not naive, and is already learning the terrible nature of the world; Tiny Tim from A Christmas Carol; and Jonas from The Giver, who is naive and unconcerned about how the world works until he learns the deeper secrets of the world and his society. These characters all grow and learn but remain pure and good natured throughout the books.

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The innocent, or the youth, is typically naïve, honest, and morally upright.  The innocent plays a large role in helping others to maintain their course; they encourage and inspire others when despair kicks in, and their unwavering optimism is their greatest weapon.  This is in contrast to other characters who are weighed down with the burdens of life (consider the difference between a happy child and a cynical adult who has faced loss and other extreme challenges – their outlooks on life will be polarized).

However, the innocent’s naivete is also their greatest curse, and can lead to gullibility; they are easily taken advantage of.  They can be so idealistic as to deny the realities around them, and may rely on others to a damaging extent.  As with all archetypes they have positive and negative qualities, which can be assets, or can get them into trouble, depending on the context and the characters they interact with.

Good examples of the innocent from literature are Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, Peregrin Took from The Lord of the Rings, and Tiny Tim from A Christmas Carol.  Buddy from the movie Elf is another perfect example, as well as Prim from the Hunger Games series.

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