Abstract In this essay, I intend to explain how everyday lives challenge the construction of childhood as a time of innocence. In the main part of my assignment, I will explain the idea of innocence, which started with Romantic discourse of childhood and how it shaped our view of childhood. I will also look at two contradictory ideas of childhood innocence and guilt in Blake’s poems and extract from Mayhew’s book. Next, I will compare the images of innocence in TV adverts and Barnardo’s posters. After that, I will look at the representation of childhood innocence in sexuality and criminality, and the roles the age and the gender play in portraying children as innocent or guilty. I will include some cross-cultural and contemporary descriptions on the key topics. At the end of my assignment, I will summarize the main points of the arguments.
The concept of childhood innocence began with the Romantic view of childhood, where children were seen as pure and sin free. The concept was greatly influenced by the eighteenth-century French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778). Rousseau, (1765) believed that children are born good and guiltless, and through life experiences, they learn badness and guilt. Most parents see their children as innocent and want to protect them from the bad world we live in. This is not always easy, especially when the country they live in is at war and children take part in it, or they live in a poor country. The war and lack of sufficient money are some of the challenges the childhood innocence faces in today's world.
The idea of childhood innocence exists in parallel with the concept of childhood guilt. Mayhew, (1861) portrays childhood innocence as a time of play and protection by parents. In the extract from his book London Labour and the London Poor, he writes about the eight-year-old Watercress girl (Book 1 U212, p.228) who ‘lost all childish ways’ because of the work she needed to do. The necessity of her work forced her to become an adult like, and adults are not innocent. In today’s Western society, working parents protect children’s innocence. However, in the late nineteenth century people were poor so the children lost their time of innocence and play, because they needed to go to work and help support the family. Unfortunately, this is still happening in some parts of the developing countries. The two contradictory ideas of childhood innocence and experience can also be seen in the two poems of William Blake (1789 & 1793) ‘Infant Joy’ and ‘Infant Sorrow’ (Book 1, U212 p. 225). In which he represented the child in two contrary ideas, innocence versus experience.
In everyday life, there are different images of childhood. Some of them try to protect their innocence, like the TV ads in Video 1 Band 3. They represent the children as naturally good. The babies in the Evian water advert (Video 1 Band 3) are the symbol of the...