10 July 2009

The outsider-hero in children’s fiction, then and now

The look in her eyes was exactly the look which Miss Minchin most disliked. She would not have it; she was quite near her, and was so enraged that she actually flew at her and boxed her ears …
It made Sara start. She wakened from her dream at the shock, and, catching her breath, stood still a second. Then, not knowing she was going to do it, she broke into a little laugh.
'What are you laughing at, you bold, impudent child?' Miss Minchin exclaimed.
It took Sara a few seconds to control herself sufficiently to remember that she was a princess. Her cheeks were red and smarting from the blows she had received.
'I was thinking,' she answered.
'Beg my pardon immediately,' said Miss Minchin.
Sara hesitated a second before she replied.
'I will beg your pardon for laughing, if it was rude,' she said then, 'but I won't beg your pardon for thinking.'
'What were you thinking?' demanded Miss Minchin. 'How dare you think?'
‘… I was thinking what would happen if I were a princess and you boxed my ears – what I should do to you. And I was thinking that if I were one, you would never dare to do it, whatever I said or did …'
'Go to your room,' cried Miss Minchin breathlessly, 'this instant! Leave the schoolroom! Attend to your lessons, young ladies!'
Sara made a little bow.
'Excuse me for laughing if it was impolite' …
(Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Little Princess)

Narcissa Malfoy strolled out from behind the clothes rack.
'Put those away,' she said coldly to Harry and Ron. 'If you attack my son again, I shall ensure that it is the last thing you ever do.'
'Really?' said Harry, taking a step forwards and gazing into the smoothly arrogant face that, for all its pallor, still resembled her sister's. He was as tall as she was now. 'Going to get a few Death Eater pals to do us in, are you?'
Madam Malkin squealed and clutched at her heart.
'Really, you shouldn't accuse – dangerous thing to say – wands away, please!'
But Harry did not lower his wand. Narcissa Malfoy smiled unpleasantly.
'I see that being Dumbledore's favourite has given you a false sense of security, Harry Potter. But Dumbledore won't always be there to protect you.'
Harry looked mockingly all around the shop.
'Wow ... look at that ... he's not here now! So why not have a go? They might be able to find you a double cell in Azkaban with your loser of a husband!'
(J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince)