Talking Together, Playing Together
In spite of many critical comments to the contrary, irony is certainly possible in fiction for children. Dodgson, Nesbit, Potter and others successfully invited young readers to share their ironic enjoyment of the characters about whom they wrote. The distinctive quality of the voices of these writers is perhaps a result of the need of the ironic narrator to combine with the narratee in a special relationship: a felt partnership, almost a collusion. Perhaps not only ‘talking together’, but also ‘playing together’ is necessary if the narrator—narratee relationship which allows irony is to be established. One of the most distinctive of modern voices in fiction for children is that of Mary Norton. In her work it is possible to see both how the presence of a child narratee subtly shapes the book for children and how delight in playing with children is linked to the use of irony.
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