Moral Instruction by Negative Example
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.
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