Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
This study establishes a more nuanced look at fictional teenage girls of the 1940s. With the beginning of World War II many teenage girls took on jobs that were left vacant by men. With these new jobs came the opportunity to gain financial independence. However, teenage girls, along with their mothers, were expected to leave their jobs once soldiers returned from war. Thus, there was a gap between the actual experiences of teenage girls and what they were expected to be--Rosie the Riveters who were willing to become housewives at the end of the war.
This gap between actual experiences and societal expectations has lent itself to typifying even fictional girls into either "bad girls" or "good girls." In this project I take a deeper look at how social discourses--specifically the boom in the wedding industry, a renewed obsession with anything Western related, department store sections catered directly to teenagers, and scrapbook making--greatly affected the coming-of-process for teenage girls.
Using De Certeau's The Practices of Everyday Lives, I investigate how each author in my project complicates the trope of the maturation arc. In chapter one I examine how Carson McCullers, in her The Member of the Wedding, uses her character Frankie Addams as a didactic tool, one that forces the reader to question the impact of the maturation arc on characters. In chapter two I trace the ways in which Jean Stafford, in her The Mountain Lion, unleashes the potential violence that occurs when a character is not able to reach the signposts of the maturation arc. Chapter three traces the ways in which Judy Graves from Sally Benson's Junior Miss is able to develop the tactic of performance in order to appropriate the maturation arc. In chapter four I consider the ways in which Francine Nolan from Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is able to resist the maturation arc and take ownership over her own coming-of-age process. I conclude with an analysis of "all-girl" bands of the 1940s and their ability to cope with the strategies of the music industry and the USO.