Unlikable/Complicated Protaganists??

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Unlikable/Complicated Protaganists??

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nov 1, 2008, 8:20 pm

As I am planning social studies units on U.S. History, I am realizing that I teach children about people and events that were questionable at best and generally pretty awful. Nonetheless, this is the history of our country. Examples of such questionable decisions can be seen in our current events today, which is simply tomorrow's history. Christopher Columbus the glorified explorer is in all reality, not such a great guy. Rather than seeing history as simply a struggle between the good guys and the bad guys, I want to start helping kids see that the story is often more complicated than that. I want to match this idea with my literature selections for my students. In adult literature there are great stories with anti-heroes and unlikable protaganists, but I think they are much more rare in children's literature. I can come up with Jack, from Jack in the Beanstalk, but again, it is fairly simplistic and a fantasy story. One great complicated character would have been the older brother in Christopher Paul Curtis's Watsons go to Birmingham 1963. However, he is more of a dynamic character who starts out as a bad guy and comes around to being a good kid. It's somewhat a simplistic transformation as well, and I think perceptive kids see that. Also, he was not the main character in the story. Are there other complex protaganists out there in children's literature that you can think of??

nov 2, 2008, 1:16 am

I don't know what age your students are, but what about Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift? Maybe that's what you meant by adult literature.

Maybe something like the True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka might be what you are looking for. Everyone "knows" what the wolf was like, until you read it from his point of view.

nov 5, 2008, 7:50 pm

thanks sounds like it might be a good suggestion, I hadn't thought about Gulliver's Travels!

dec 31, 2008, 12:38 am

I also try to give my students a broader understanding of historical figures. When I taught 4th grade, we discussed the real effect the missions and Father Junipero Serra had, then about the internment camps and so forth. Teaching 5th grade (US history) this year has been a real treat with keeping perspective! I cite the example of Goldilocks. She broke and entered, stole, destroyed things, never said thank you, never compensated them for their losses... pretty messed up. I remind them that you need to see things from both sides.

dec 31, 2008, 12:44 am

See my review of A Great and Godly Adventure. If it intices you to read the book, you'll have PLENTY to talk about.