Madeleine L’Engle is a contemporary young adult author whose coming-of-age novels center on characters confused about their place in the world. Protagonists Meg Murry, of A Wrinkle in Time, and Vicky Austin, of Meet the Austins, begin their respective journeys feeling disillusioned about their faith and uncertain of their identities. However, as they begin to understand their relationship with the natural world more fully, they develop as individuals and form closer bonds with others. In this way, L’Engle’s writing subtly reveals the values the author shares with transcendentalist writers like Ralph Waldo Emerson. Nature aids her protagonists’ journeys toward self-discovery in that its presence helps them to make sense of that which is mysterious to them, like the existence of God, or the inexplicable loss of a loved one. Through self-examination, Meg and Vicky are able to reconcile the side of their personalities evident in their interactions with others and that part of themselves they only realize in their reflections on the natural world.
Just as L’Engle’s characters struggle to define themselves, the independent personalities of Caroline of Brunswick, Mary of Teck, and Diana Spencer resisted the stringent expectations of the monarchy and the overpowering presence of the British public. The unconventional lives of Caroline, Mary, and Diana were exposed for the enjoyment of the public. As the roles of royals changed from political to celebrity, the princesses found ways to appeal to both the monarchy and the general public. The private details of monarchs’ lives became the topic of common dinner table conversations as the methods to broadcast information became more invasive. The princesses’ confident personas both challenged the tradition behind the monarchy and captivated the attention of the British public during the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries. The princesses denied the monarchy’s power to dictate their lives and continued their independent work as humanitarians and public figures. The princesses refused to compromise their personalities to fit into the picture-perfect image. The untraditional lives of Caroline, Mary, and Diana challenged the authority of the monarchy and made them figures of admiration and controversy.
Major Works Consulted:
Harris, Nathaniel. Systems of Government: Monarchy. Milwaukee: World Almanac Library, 2006.
Photo Credit: Hipple, Ted. Writers for Young Adults Vol. 2. New York: Simon & Schuster Macmillan, 1997.
L’Engle, Madeleine. Meet the Austins. New York: Square Fish, 2008.
--. A Wrinkle in Time. New York: Square Fish, 2007.
Paxman, Jeremy. On Royalty. New York: Penguin, 2005.