Only Children Themes
by Alison Lurie

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Only Children Themes

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

One of the most notable and continuous themes in Only Children is that of the pastoral escape. The Hubbards and Zimmerns are escaping to the country for a weekend, and the setting plays an important part in their magical regression. Anna King's farm is not simply rural, it is intentionally rustic. She is a lady Thoreau, or as Bill describes her, a "pioneer." She embodies the American ideal of self-reliance—growing her own food, cutting her own wood, and choosing solitude over dependence. Her ties to the natural world are vital, in Mary Ann's mind, even magical. Anna nurtures the green life around her, and is loved in return: "Virginia [creeper] loving Anna's house, surrounding it holding it hugging it safe forever. Green-veined soft hands, hundreds of them ... Love. Because everything growing here loves Anna." One might be reminded, while reading Only Children, of novels like Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden (1911), or Philippa Pearce's Tom's Midnight Garden (1958), for its part in their tradition of using gardens to reflect childhood freedom and protection from the hazards of adult life. However, Lurie's pastoral setting is not simply an innocent Eden—Lolly and Mary Ann see and hear too much to remain ignorant of the reality that surrounds them.