Modern Ideas of “Childhood”

In Kirsten Learns a Lesson, the idea of “girlhood” is presented in a very conventional way that lines up with ongoing standards of what a young girl should look like and how she should act. Contrarily, the idea of “girlhood” in the story of Greta Thunberg as Times Magazine’s Person of the Year is a modern depiction of the how the youth constructs culture. Both Kirsten Learns a Lesson and Greta Thunberg focus on representations of “girlhood” in a way that shows how different the definitions of this word can be, and how society affects the precepts of young girls. Girlhood can be described many ways, and some of these explanations aren’t necessarily parallel either. Comparing the story of Kirsten and Greta is evidence of this. In Kirsten’s story, “girlhood” is more innocent and youthful. She plays with dolls and plays in the yard with her cousins. Looking also at another part of the social construction of girlhood – physical appearance – Kirsten is always illustrated with nicely braided hair, bows, and a dress. She is strictly taught by her parents and teacher to act feminine and have good manners. After this analysis, “girlhood” can be described as young, feminine, proper, and conventional in the tasks Kirsten is asked to do. Possibly one of the only similarities between the idea of “girlhood” in Kirsten’s story and Greta’s is the age. Greta is a 16 year old girl advocating for climate change and simultaneously constructing a new idea of “girlhood”. She has already accomplished so much at such a young age. While Kirsten’s story depicted that “girlhood” was a youthful and innocent state of mind, Greta presents as a very powerful and motivated character. This is changing the culture because Greta is paving the way for young girls to break away from the conventional ideas of girlhood and norms of young females. 

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