A Complete Identity: The Youthful Hero in the Work of G.A. Henty and George MacDonald

By R.E. Johnson

An examination of the hero figure in two Victorian authors of children’s literature and the complexity of their engagement with the ideologies of the time.

ISBN: 9780718893590


A Complete Identity is an examination of the hero figure in the works of G.A. Henty (1832-1902) and George MacDonald (1824-1905) and a reassessment of oppositional critiques of their writing. It demonstrates the complementary characteristics of the hero figure, which construct a complete identity commensurate with the Victorian ideal hero.

The relationship between the expansion of the British Empire and youthful heroism is established through investigation of the Victorian political, social and religious milieu, the construct of the child, and the construct of the hero. A connection between the exotic geographical space of empire and the unknown psychological space is drawn through examination of representation of the “other” in the work of Henty and MacDonald.

This book demonstrates that Henty’s work is more complex than the stereotypically linear, masculine, imperialistic critique of his stories that historical realism allows, and that MacDonald’s work displays more evidence of historical embedding and ideological interpellation than the critical focus on his work as fantasy and fairy tale considers.

Additional information

Dimensions 229 × 153 mm
Pages 254
Illustrations b&w

Trade Information LPOD

About the Author

Rachel E. Johnson is an Associate Researcher attached to The International Forum for Research in Children’s Literature at the University of Worcester.


List of Illustrations
Foreword by Jean Webb


1. My Hero: Method and Text
2. Historical Context
3. Genre, Mode, and Ideology
4. Child and Hero: The Construct of the Child 1850-1900
5. The Construct of the Hero 1850-1900
6. The Ideology of the Hero and the Representation of the “Other”
7. My Hero: The Complete Identity



Endorsements and Reviews

This remarkable piece of scholarship offers a bold, unexpected and exciting juxtaposition of G.A. Henty and George MacDonald, exploring their work as part of the same tradition and the product of the same culture and ideology. It sheds new light on the Victorian era, children’s and adolescent fiction, childhood studies, gender studies and a whole range of other areas of critical pursuit.
Maria Nikolajeva, Professor of Education, Professorial Fellow of Homerton College, Cambridge

Scholarly, readable, thorough and in some ways revolutionary, A Complete Identity is a remarkable contribution to Henty and MacDonald studies. Students of children’s literature and Victorian literature and culture will find its close textual readings and its revaluation of the nature of the hero refreshing and highly informative.
Peter Hunt, Emeritus Professor of English and Children’s Literature, Cardiff University