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American Misfits and the Making of Middle-Class Respectability$
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Robert Wuthnow

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780691176864

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691176864.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM PRINCETON SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.princeton.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Princeton University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in PRSO for personal use.date: 17 May 2022

Naughty Children

Naughty Children

Moral Instruction by Negative Example

(p.227) Chapter Seven Naughty Children
American Misfits and the Making of Middle-Class Respectability

Robert Wuthnow

Princeton University Press

This chapter explores the question of whether and, if so, to what extent and how negative examples played a prominent role in the stories and lessons through which children were expected to learn what it meant to be a respectable member of society. It argues that the stories, advice books, and media accounts in which nineteenth-century readers learned about naughty children contributed to the broader tendencies in American culture to define what was respectable by maligning particular people and activities that did not conform to those expectations. Narratives featuring naughty children communicated more than simple truths about the value of being well mannered. They went a great deal further toward instilling fear and revulsion. The dark side inhabited by bad boys and girls was dangerous. It inflicted its own punishments in tears and misfortune.

Keywords:   naughty children, American culture, middle class, nineteenth century, negative examples, respectability, childen's literature

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