[DWJ] corporal punishment

Gili Bar-Hillel hptranslator at gmail.com
Thu Mar 10 01:33:44 EST 2011

Thanks a bunch to all of you! Many of the books you mentioned are on project
Gutenberg, so I imagine I'll easily find the quotes by running a search.
Problem is I then have to look them up in Hebrew translation for my class...
or maybe I'll just make them suck it up and listen to English. (Reading
level English is a university requirement and we are assigned many readings
in English, but the students do grumble about it). I think I have plenty of
examples, and the more I think about this topic, the more fascinating I find
it. I'm beginning to think there might be an MA thesis in this...

One lister raised the hypothesis, and I'm thinking she may be absolutely
right, that I mixed up the punishment of Amy March with the punishment of
Danny in "Danny the Champion of the World". Interesting also that some of
you mentioned scenes in books I know I've read, such as Jane Eyre, but I had
absolutely no recollection of these scenes.

In the Narnia books, C. S. Lewis sneaks in a couple of words in favor of
corporal punishment. He states quite clearly in Dawn Treader that one of the
elements lacking in Eustace's education was corporal punishment; in the
conclusion of "The Silver Chair" Eustace and Jill and Caspian give the
bullies at Experimental School a whacking which we are lead to read as long

Asides from corporal punishment, there are many examples of more
"educational" forms of punishment in literature - giving the child a "taste
of their own medicine" or having their lies come true on them - sometimes
framed as quite entertaining: Nurse Matilda (aka Nanny McFee) and Mrs.
Piggle-Wiggle come to mind.

It is a gruesome topic and one about which there is a frightening wealth of
material. I've just read four different memoirs of Jewish authors who
studied in "Heder" (a word meaning "room", because usually this would be one
room in the house of a private teacher) in 18th, 19th and even early 20th
century Europe, where teachers mercilessly flogged children as young as
three and as old as twenty. Students would leave injured, sometimes crippled
for life, one of the stories is about a boy who died at the hands of his
teacher - and this was socially accepted, even expected. Beatings were
considered an inseparable part of education. Perhaps, indeed, the only way
to get a group of children to learn to read a foreign language at three was
to make it essential to their survival that they do so. I'm getting carried
away, but the topic has hit a sensitive spot with me and one which is
unfortunately on my mind in recent days.

ObDWJ: in "Time of the Ghost", the fact that the girls are NOT punished by
their parents for various misdeeds is a sign of their neglect. If they are
punished, it is randomly, not immediately connected to what they did or did
not do, making their entire interaction with their father an extended
blanket punishment for being bad girls and unworthy of his attention.

I'll leave you with this thought from Astrid Lindgren, author of the Pippi
Longstocking books. This is from a controversial speech she gave in 1978 in
Germany; one year later, Sweden passed a law forbidding parents to beat
their children:

"When I was about 20 years old, I met an old pastor's wife who told me that
when she was young and had her first child, she didn't believe in striking
children, although spanking kids with a switch pulled from a tree was
standard punishment at the time. But one day when her son was four or five,
he did something that she felt warranted a spanking - the first of his life.
And she told him that he would have to go outside and find a switch for her
to hit him with. The boy was gone a long time. And when he came back in, he
was crying. He said to her, "Mama, I couldn't find a switch, but here's a
rock that you can throw at me."

"All of a sudden the mother understood how the situation felt from the
child's point of view: that if my mother wants to hurt me, then it makes no
difference what she does it with; she might as well do it with a stone. And
the mother took the boy onto her lap and they both cried. Then she laid the
rock on a shelf in the kitchen to remind herself forever: never violence.
And that is something I think everyone should keep in mind. Because violence
begins in the nursery— one can raise children into violence."

On Thu, Mar 10, 2011 at 5:46 AM, Gin <kalaidiscope at gmail.com> wrote:

> Hi,
> There is definately caning in Tom Brown's schooldays, and there is also
> caning in Rudyard Kiplings'  " Stalky and Co" . Would you like me to find
> the quotes for you?
> Gin
> On Thu, Mar 10, 2011 at 1:10 PM, Roslyn Gross <rosgross at bigpond.net.au
> >wrote:
> > In _Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix_, Harry is physically
> > punished in a particularly sadistic way by Professor Umbridge.
> >
> > Ros
> >
> > On 10/03/11 4:25 AM, "Gili Bar-Hillel" <hptranslator at gmail.com> wrote:
> >
> > >Dear DWJers,
> > >
> > >I'm straying off topic, but this list is so wonderful for identifying
> > >books
> > >that I can't help myself.
> > >I'm trying to remember a book in which a schoolgirl gets caned across
> the
> > >palms of the hands. It's something like "What Katy Did" or "Anne of
> Green
> > >Gables"... Her hands hurt so badly she can hardly hold a pencil
> > >afterwards.
> > >Does anyone remember such a scene?
> > >And in general, I'm looking for references in works of fiction to
> children
> > >being punished by adults, in particular memoirs and fiction from the
> 19th
> > >century, punishment at school, and corporal punishment. I've come up so
> > >far
> > >with the paddling in "The Great Brain", Silas Marner sticking Eppie the
> > >coal
> > >shed... I'm sure there are tons more that I can't recall right now. Help
> > >appreciated!
> > >
> > >Gili
> > >_______________________________________________
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> > >Dwj at suberic.net
> > >http://www.suberic.net/mailman/listinfo/dwj
> >
> >
> >
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