The word trauma originally comes from medicine, where it describes a physical wound caused by something external to the body, such as a physical blow. Other derivations of the Greek word trauma refer to piercing, and in the nineteenth century, the association with psychological injury began to dominate (Macareavey 2016, 154). In children’s literature, trauma is primarily associated with psychological wounds. Even when physical trauma is central to the plot, the narrative tends to focus on the mental anguish incurred. Both the car crash that temporarily disables Pollyanna in Eleanor Porter’s Pollyanna (1913) and Katy’s fall from the swing in Susan Coolidge’s What Katy Did (1872) focus on the mental rehabilitation of the eponymous heroines, which is rewarded with physical recovery. The association of the word trauma with piercing captures another feature of trauma in children’s literature: it represents a breach of a border that was assumed to be impervious. Cutting through the skin violates the border between the body and the world. In literature for young readers, this rupture exposes the inner self to society, and the character’s pain dominates the narrative thereafter.

This essay may be found on page 190 of the printed volume.

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