Date of Award

12-1-2014

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

English

First Advisor

Chandler, Anne

Abstract

The literature written around the Revolutionary War period is one full of imagery of families torn apart by bad decisions-- from fathers (and father figures) too harshly wielding power over their dependents, to children disobeying their parents or guardians, usually with grim results. The theme of family in disarray can be seen clearly in a larger context as two nations preoccupied with their own "family ties" unraveling. Some texts from this period show fathers as either absent or harsh to the point of being abusive, using their authority as the head of the home in a way that drives affection and obedience from them, instead of drawing it to them. Other texts show literal and figurative sons and daughters disobeying advice or even direct commands from their loving and wise parents, almost always with results ending in death, or at least permanently, life-altering consequences. In this paper, I mean to deal with this disconnect between tropes--how each continent produced literature showing the distress felt by its citizens not only in regards to the separation of America from Britain but, as Jay Fliegelman in Prodigals and Pilgrims writes, the "revolution against patriarchal authority" (5). Sentiment toward these societal changes was not defined by one's continent alone but was enhanced by politics and changing attitudes toward the family unit, which started long before America's Revolution.

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