Harriet the Spy

Language, Power, and Gender: The Power Dynamics of Language and Social Class in Three Children’s Books College

In several works of children’s literature, the use of language is closely tied with power. Specifically, in Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh, Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery, and Matilda by Roald Dahl, each of these heroines uses language to overcome a lower social status. This essay explores how each of these “underdogs” is depicted using language that delineates social class and character, as well as how each of these young women overcomes it. Ultimately, it is clear that each of these writers uses language not only to create memorable characters, but to instruct young girls in how they, too, can use language to create power and transcend their circumstances.

In Anne of Green Gables, Anne’s arrival is already structured by language describing her. Before she has even appeared in the story, Mrs. Rachel Lynde is pontificating as to the reason that Matthew is leaving the house that day. “And yet here was Matthew Cuthbert, at half-past three on the afternoon of a busy day, placidly driving over the hollow and up the hill; moreover, he wore a white collar and his best suit of clothes, which was plain proof that he was going out of Avonlea; and he had the buggy and the sorrel mare, which betokened that he was going a...

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