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LYNDA ZWINGER L Henry James Returned et us begin with a turn at two pedo-cidal stories, the sordid ends of which look like this. With the stroke of the loss I was so proud ofhe uttered the cry of a creature hurled over an abyss, and the grasp with which I recovered him might have been that of catching him in his fall. I caught him, yes, I held him—it may be imagined with what a passion; but at the end of a minute I began to feel what it truly was that I held. We were alone with the quiet day, and his little heart, dispossessed, had stopped. ("TS" 212-13) He had a moment of boyish joy, scarcely mitigated by the reflexion that with this unexpected consecration of his hope— too sudden and too violent; the turn taken was away from a good boy's book—the "escape" was left on their hands. . . . But there was more need for courage at something else that immediately followed and that made the lad sit down quickly on the nearest chair. He had turned quite livid and had raised his hand to his left side. . . . Mrs. Moreen suddenly bounded forward . . . . She caught him ardently in her arms. Her son made no protest, and the next instant, still holding him, she sprang up with her face convulsed and with the terrified cry, "Help, help! he's going, he's gone!" Pemberton saw with equal horror, by Morgan's own stricken face, that he was beyond their wildest recall. He pulled him half out of his mother's hands, and for a moment, while they held him together, they looked at their dismay into each other's eyes. "He couldn't stand it with his weak organ," said Pemberton—"the shock, the whole scene, the emotion." ("Pupil" 213-14) Arizona Quarterly Volume 53, Number 4, Winter 1997 Copyright © 1997 by Arizona Board of Regents ISSN 0004-1610 Lynda Zwinger Two boys with weak organs die in the midst of a tug of war. In each crime scene we find a mother figure, her possibly pedophilic tutelary rival/co-conspirator, and a more or less impassive father figure who mostly lurks in the background. In both tales, the boy dies as conveniently as any heroine who has ever either escaped a fate worse than death or been subjected to it. Readers have generally agreed there is at least something worth discussing in the erotic investments of the governess and the tutor in their small male charges. And among those who take the kind ofprurient interest in these fictions that I do, it is more or less a given that the boys are somewhere in the border territories which lie between those other fictions, heterosexuality and homosexuality (fictional in many ways, starting with the notion that there are two opposing, definable, stable, narratable entities represented by those labels). So what kind ofstory needs a boy to kill? Let's start with the boy part. James Kincaid offers a functional definition of "child": what we think of as "the child" has been assembled in reference to desire, built up in erotic manufactories ... we have been laboring ever since, for at least two centuries, both to deny that horrible and lovely product and to maintain it. . . . By insisting so loudly on the innocence, purity, and asexuality of the child, we have created a subversive echo: experience, corruption, eroticism. More than that, by attributing to the child the central features ofdesirability in our culture—purity, innocence, emptiness, Otherness—we have made absolutely essential figures who would enact this desire. Such figures are certainly not us, we insist, insist so violently because we must, so violently that we come to think that what we are is what these figures are not----- A child is not, in itself, anything. Any image, body, or being we can hollow out, purify, exalt, abuse, and locate sneakily in a field ofdesire will do for us as a "child." . . . The "pedophile," similarly, is a role and position, brought into being by and coordinate with the eroticizing of the child. Defining the child as an object of desire, we create the pedophile as...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1558-9595
Print ISSN
0004-1610
Pages
pp. 1-6
Launched on MUSE
2014-04-02
Open Access
No
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