abstract illustration of Princess Irene with a forest backdrop

The Princess and the Goblin

by George MacDonald

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Student Question

Analyze how one character from The Princess and the Goblin changes throughout the story and how this affects the story's meaning.

Expert Answers

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George MacDonald's The Princess and the Goblin has a couple of dynamic characters that change quite a bit throughout the novel. Your best bet is to choose either Princess Irene or Curdie and track their development from beginning to end.

If you choose Princess Irene, you could argue that her maturity level increases considerably over the course of the story. Notice how that could be your thesis statement. As you develop that thesis, you might explore what Irene learns from her grandmother, how she acts in more resourceful ways as the story develops, and how her relationship with Curdie changes and grows.

If you decide to focus on Curdie, you may want to concentrate on how Curdie's choices and view of the world expand. Think about how Curdie cannot see Irene's grandmother at first. He is not open to her magic, so he cannot connect with her. This changes over the course of the story, though. Curdie also grows in cleverness and the ability to adapt to situations beyond his control. He defeats the goblins because he notices their weak spots. Finally, at the end of the story, Curdie must make another choice. The king offers him a job as bodyguard, but Curdie is not yet ready to accept such a position, and he knows it. He decides to stay at home with his parents.

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Write a five-paragraph literary analysis of Irene in The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald. Choose a thesis statement that analyzes how that character changes in three ways throughout the story. Explain how this character’s development affects the meaning of the story. Include an introductory paragraph, three body paragraphs, and a concluding paragraph. Provide sufficient textual evidence to support your ideas.

In a literary analysis of the character of Irene that focuses on the ways she changes, an essay could use a chronological or thematic approach. Each of the three ways she changes could be the subject of one of the essay’s body paragraphs. A chronological approach would follow the character from the beginning of the story to the end. In contrast, a thematic approach would begin by identifying significant elements of her personality or behavior and connect each element with one or more important aspects of the story, including plot points and other characters.

An appropriate thesis statement would explore how key aspects of her character are connected with the most significant meanings. The thesis could take a stand on whether an important event affected her development or might assert that she caused such an event.

The issue of faith and belief in the supernatural is closely intertwined with Irene’s relationship with Grandmother and with Lootie, especially in the earlier part of the story. The specific actions that Irene takes are connected with her changing attitudes toward such belief, but not in a straightforward progression from disbelief to belief. Rather, her fluctuating doubts condition both her reluctance to act and decisions made out of fear, such as fleeing from the goblins. The changes in her character can be analyzed as arising from her growing concern for others, including her willingness to risk her life for them—notably in deciding to rescue Curdie.

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