Texas Wesleyan Law Review


Thomas C. Klein

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Man-made law, or "positive" law, and its related legal institutions are represented in children's novels as complicated, sometimes corrupt, and often arbitrary structures that prevent the protagonists from reaching their desired goals or resolving their difficulties. Rather than presenting positive law and its related institutions as a means to resolve conflicts and provide repose to the characters, children's novels present such law and institutions as aggravating or prolonging conflict, and creating uncertainty about how the protagonist will extricate himself or herself from the legal predicament. Children's novels do not offer the child reader any known points of reference in the legal landscape so the positive law and legal institutions themselves appear imposing, largely unknown, and mysterious. Positive law and legal institutions in children's stories create dramatic tension because the protagonist must negotiate out of, or around, a predicament that a legality, or a collision with a legal institution, has complicated. In some stories, the legal situation itself is the central predicament out of which the protagonist must escape. These stories present, from a child's perspective, the law as a quagmire with few understandable points of reference or clear exits. As a complex and largely arbitrary system, this imperfect order rendered by the positive law in children's novels reflects an avenue that inevitably leads the protagonist to outcomes inferior to those if the law is avoided, ignored, or flouted. This portrayal of positive law and legal institutions is evident in two classic children's novels The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, and Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor.



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