The beginning of the new century and the shifting response to social and cultural change brought about a renewal in children's literature and a change in its circumstances. Presaged by the conflict and confusion which characterised the fin de siècle, the separation of child and adult experience and a further expansion in the children's book market, indicated a growing perception of children as 'other'. As the twentieth century progressed, and the fears of apocalypse grew more immediate, the need to offer children optimistic futures was more compelling, but more difficult. This unease, made more complex by the insights into the human mind provided by the increasing prominence of psychoanalytic ideas, made the image of the child more mysterious and threatening. Rather than fearing the sinfulness of children as in the nineteenth century, the twentieth century ended with fear of the actions of the actual child. Children-as-murderers appear to signify a society in its deaththroes; always in reference to the image of innocence derived from Romanticism, the evil, out of control child becomes an indication of our own moral poverty and inability to exert influence in the world. Children's literature of the period deals with these fears, either by escaping from them and retreating to a Romantic image of innocence, or by addressing children through fractured narratives.
The rejection of religion, the loss of a 'centre', the fear of a growing rift between culture and populism and the impact of the expansion of the industrial world had an undeniable impact on the adult writers of children's literature. At the same time, the further separation of child and adult markets for fiction had a pragmatic effect on what was produced. At a time when art and literature were experiencing an explosion of innovation in response to the