Childhood has always been an important theme in literature, especially during the Romantic and the Victorian period. But while in the Romantic Period Blake, Coleridge and Wordsworth emphasised the innate goodness in a child’s nature, in the Victorian Period important literary figures, like Charles Dickens, focused on childhood innocence within the adulthood experience in itself. Also for William Golding childhood was a relevant theme, but, as a post-war writer, he portrayed how children behave when the mature principles and restrictions of adult society are removed.
Dickens, whose childhood has been very troubled because his father was imprisoned for debts, often used child as the most important character in his novels. This figure, symbol of goodness and knowledge, is constrasted by that of miserable parents, and therefore the natural order of things is overturned. A prime example of this view is his most important novel “Oliver Twist”.
On the other hand Golding, whose life has been psychologically affected by the war, described the image of the child as a mini adult characterized by aggressiveness and transgression of the more wicked to the weaker, and this view can be seen in his famous novel “Lord of the Flies”. In both of this novels, the child characters are obliged to assume adult behaviours and roles because, in one way or another, they have been isolated and estranged from the society. But this is not necessarily bad, because they have to try to govern themselves and so it can be considered as a chance to grow up.
This point is particularily clear in “Lord of the Flies” because a group have been left on an island after a plane crash: all adults were killed and the children are confronted with the task of survival.They have to estabilish some kind of rules and democracy, so they elect a leader. As regards “Oliver Twist”, Oliver and the boys his ages have to work and provide to themselves at such a young age. A topic in contrast in this two novel is the vision of the upper class adult.
In Dickens’s novel it is shown in a good way as Mr. Brownlow treats Oliver with care, in fact in Victorian Hierarchy often dictated how a person was treated, and Oliver was treated poorly as his mother was seen without a wedding ring. Instead, in Golding’s novel there is the initial effort to set up a democracy and a rational society, but this begin to fail as the group divides and the society disintegrates under aggression and superstition. This can be seen as criticism to adult society, which incluenced his children to a sense of wrong-doing during their “old life”.