Studying the Social Worlds of Children: Sociological Readings

By Frances Chaput Waksler | Go to book overview
Save to active project

The Culture of Children 2: Half-Belief

Outwardly the children in the back streets and around the housing estate appear to belong to the twentieth century, but ancient apprehensions, even if only half believed in, continue to infiltrate their minds; warning them that moonlight shining on a person’s face when he is asleep will make him go mad, that vinegar stops a person growing no matter how young he is, that a bleeding wart never stops bleeding and the person will bleed to death. They confide to each other that a stone-chip picked up off a grave brings a curse upon him who takes it; that a nose which is too long may be shortened by rubbing it with wet grass on the night of a new moon; and that if a photograph in a frame is dropped and the glass breaks, a painful accident will befall the subject of the photograph. ‘I shudder if I break a mirror, fearing seven years’ bad luck’, says a 14-year-old Yorkshire girl; and a Radnorshire lad affirms, ‘If you break a mirror they say seven years’ bad luck to you. This is true in my family.’ With simple faith they accept beliefs which have not changed since Shakespeare’s day: that if a dog howls outside a house or scratches at the floor someone is going to die in that house; that if owls screech at night it is a sign of death; that if a person hears of two deaths he will assuredly hear of a third; and in evening places where children meet the telling of each dark precept is supported with gruesome instances. [Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer comes to mind here.] They begin to share the awe felt by Mole in The Wind in the Willows when Ratty warned him of the hundred things an animal had first to understand before entering the Wild Wood:

Passwords, and signs, and sayings which have power and effect, and plants you carry in your pocket, and verses you repeat, and dodges and tricks you practise; all simple enough when you know them, but they’ve got to be known if you’re small, or you’ll find yourself in trouble.

It is such dark thoughts which cause children at Brierley Hill in south Staffordshire to hide their little fingers when an ambulance goes by for fear that their finger-nails will drop out; which induce children in the Gower Peninsula to spit when they see a dead animal and cry:


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Studying the Social Worlds of Children: Sociological Readings


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 282

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?