Tom Brown and the Schoolboy Crush

Eric L. Tribunella

in The Oxford Handbook of Children's Literature

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780195379785
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 Tom Brown and the Schoolboy Crush

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  • Children's Literature Studies
  • Literary Studies (19th Century)


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This article investigates Thomas Hughes's Tom Brown's Schooldays (1857) through the lenses of queer and postcolonial theory to suggest the ways in which homosocial networks and homosocial desire both upheld and threatened to destabilize the hegemony of the British empire as young people attending elite boarding schools were socialized into norms of acceptable behavior. It considers the historical record regarding the schoolboy crush. The article also argues that schoolboy crushes promote the ideals of same-sex bonding while avoiding the danger that romantic friendships might cross the line into prohibited relationships of sex, contamination, and vice. The intimate friendship between Tom and George Arthur is met with similar suspicion in Tom Brown's Schooldays; nevertheless, Tom's relationship with Arthur manages to circumvent this danger. The concept of hero worship connects the notion of the crush with the spiritual sanctification experienced by Tom Brown over the course of Tom Brown's Schooldays.

Keywords: Tom Brown's Schooldays; Thomas Hughes; schoolboy crush; George Arthur; hero worship; boyhood desire; school story

Article.  9240 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Children's Literature Studies ; Literary Studies (19th Century)

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