Date of Completion

12-18-2015

Degree Type

Honors Thesis

Discipline

English (ENGL)

First Advisor

Stephen Shepherd

Abstract

T. S. Eliot once wrote that we “often find that not only the best, but the most individual parts of [an author’s] work may be those in which the dead poets, his ancestors, assert their immortality most vigorously” (Eliot 37). By focusing on character adaptations, one comes to understand how authors of children’s books are able to adapt classic literature into age-appropriate texts that retain the merits of the original. Five sets of characters shall be analyzed to demonstrate the success of the adaptations presented in children’s literature. In the first, Sir Bedivere from Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte Darthur and Bennacio from The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp by Rick Yancey show how children conscious of an adaptation can access the original character immediately. In the second, the two Cinnas in William Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Julius Caesar and Cinna from Suzanne Collin’s The Hunger Games series demonstrate how simplifying a character gives young readers access to important lessons from the original text. The third character set compares Pygmalion from Ovid’s Metamorphoses to Geppetto in The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi to reveal how interacting with an impoverished character aids children in their understanding of a complex character later. In the fourth, King Hrothgar from the Beowulf tradition and King Hrothgar from Christopher Paolini’s The Inheritance Cycle present an adaptation in which readers are unaware that they are interacting with a classic character in a new setting, allowing the adaptation to become the classic. The final character set analyzes Queen Hermione from Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale and Hermione Granger from J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series to demonstrate how children, when unconscious of the adaptation, can understand a younger version of a classic character who might seem out of reach. Through these five adaptations, one recognizes that children’s literature is a successful medium through which to introduce young readers to more complex characters and improve their comprehension of classic literature, done by linking the original work to a text they understood in their youth and applying critical-reading skills “to both high and popular culture” (Wallace 97).