Savage things & She’s Leaving Home: the role of space in three coming-of-age novels
This thesis comprises two pieces of work – a novel and an accompanying research paper. The novel, Savage Things, is a story of a girl, removed from the home of her vulnerable mother to live with her grandparents for a summer. There, she falls in with various secondary characters: a gang of boys, the college-aged girl who lives upstairs, a housebound neighbour, and her wider family. As these relationships form, the girl feels increasingly conflicted about her own identity and her place in the world. However, the girl’s mother is not finished with her and reappears as the girl begins to find her feet in this new environment, taking her on a final trip that forces them to reconsider their relationship with each other and the world around them. The research paper, ‘She’s Leaving Home’, is an examination of three coming-of-age texts – Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping, Alan Warner’s Morvern Callar, and Eugene McCabe’s Death and Nightingales. The paper analyses all three novels via their relationship to the Bildungsroman as a form and questions the role that space plays in each. My discussion defines space in several ways – as a physical, psychological, and social concept. I argue that space is an essential component to the Bildungsroman in that it provides the context necessary for a protagonist to define herself against and within. It considers the prominent role that land plays and how it corresponds to each text’s political context – from the Depression-era transients of Housekeeping to the bitter land disputes of Death and Nightingales – while also arguing that each context assists in its protagonist’s coming-of-age.