Date of Thesis

Spring 2021


My thesis explores the relationship between the child reader and the protagonist within fantasy children’s literature. By examining the experience of the protagonist in the text, I am complicating the notion of escapism in children’s literature and offering a new way to look at how children read. Using narrative theory and Freud’s fort-da, I detail how the events within a novel, the danger and catharsis within the plot, show how both the protagonist and the reader use narrative to better understand and cope with anxieties in their worlds. The novels and series that I discuss, Peter and Wendy (1911), Narnia (1950-1956), and Harry Potter (1997-2007), all contain fantasy worlds that clearly demonstrate the identification between the reader and the protagonist, as well as their shared experiences in a space that mimics the psychological landscape of the child. In order to closely examine these works and dissect the reading experience, I have structured my analysis much like a narrative. In Chapter 1, I detail how identification is formed when the reading experience first begins, leading up to the entrance of the protagonist into the fantasy world. Chapter 2 discusses the action of the novel, which displays fort-da sequences where anxieties and fears are faced by the protagonist. Lastly, Chapter 3 discusses the endings of the novels and the child reader’s exit from the reading experience.


children's literature, psychoanalysis

Access Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Type

Master of Arts

First Advisor

Virginia Zimmerman