Chapter

Plotting Adoption in Nineteenth-Century Fiction

Carol J. Singley

in Adopting America: Childhood, Kinship, and National Identity in Literature

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780199779390
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199895106 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199779390.003.0004
Plotting Adoption in Nineteenth-Century Fiction

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Adoption fiction flourished in the mid-nineteenth century, reflecting a new republican conception of family as a nonhierarchical grouping of individuals whose will to be together is as important as blood ties. Writers enlisted the trope of adoption to set the terms upon which a white middle class would develop. The little known novel, Laura Huntley, by Maria Browne (1850), addresses anxieties about immigration and urbanization through a couple’s adoption of an abandoned infant. The novel also reflects changes in child rearing practices and the shift from Calvinist to more sentimental theology when Laura’s adoptive parents curb her misbehavior and guide her to meet expectations for piety, obedience, and respect consonant with those of the developing nation.

Keywords: Maria Browne; Laura Huntley; sentimentality; Calvinist; middle class; birth mother; adoptive parent; Bildungsroman; law; immigration; mobility; democratic individualism; gender

Chapter.  8711 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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