A Conversation for The Life and Works of Enid Blyton
Chrysanthemum Started conversation Aug 7, 2003
I left my childhood behind many, many years back. So I don't know why I did this...but I googled for Enid Blyton this morning and came up with lots of links on her, about her works, critiques etc.
I grew up in India. And the first book that I read was from the circus series, when I was about 8 years old. I don't remember the name now, but it had Lotta in it. And then I ventured into The Secret Seven series. And I was hooked. I think I read all her Mystery, Adventure, Famous Five and School books.
The books painted an entirely different life from what I had growing up in a small town in the India of the 1970s. And between 1975 and 1979, Enid Blyton's books offered me an escape from the slow and sometimes constrictively traditional life that only a small town can bring.
I remember most of us (my friends and I) would escape into the boarding school stories and pretend that we lived the same way, though all of us lived at home. We fantasized about sneaking out from home in the middle of the night to track the "bad" people. Of course, needless to say, we never actually did these things. Blyton's world presented us with a structure, security and order, that was similar, yet alien to what we had in our homes.
Many years later, I came upon an article somewhere which said that Enid Blyton's works contain elements of racism (golliwogs as toys), sexism (where women do the housekeeping) and that the world she created was too idealistic. I felt myself rising to defend Enid Blyton - as a coloured person myself, I never saw anything racist about her books. I did not even find them sexist. Because I was used to seeing my mother as well as a majority of women as homemakers who stayed at home, but at the same time, had a say in everything that went on in their domains. As I grew older and even now in my 30s, I don't think that being a homemaker is derogatory in any way. It is not anti-feminist. In fact, in some ways, it is more difficult to be a homemaker than to work outside the home. So I saw nothing wrong in Anne being the little housekeeper for the others. Anne was necessary to act as a foil for the boyish George (Georgina). Feminists may disapprove, but is there any proof that Anne did not like what she was doing, or that she was being forced to be the "housekeeper".
There have also been allegations that Enid Blyton tended to make fun of foreigners in her books (Claudine in I think the St Clare's books; and an American girl in the other school series). I am not saying that it is alright to make fun of foreigners, but we have to consider the influences of the times on Enid Blyton. She herself grew up during those times when England was still a major colonial/imperial power and accordingly, she saw the English and everything English as superior to the rest of the world. I don't think that makes her racist or xenophobic.
I don't know about children today, whether they read Enid Blyton or not. I was talking to my 10 year old niece the other day. She turned up her nose at Enid Blyton as being too old fashioned and boring. However, her reaction might also be a result of having just moved to North America where she is more exposed to contemporary North American culture, which is anyway considered more "in and happening" in today's world.
*That was a long post, but those are my thoughts on Enid Blyton*
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