The Girl's Own Book

School Stories

chool stories met the demand for novels that would interest girls and young women, and into which beneficial moral lessons might be inserted. Until the twentieth century these stories were set at boarding schools, exclusive establishments for the daughters of the well-to-do. Common themes reflect the restricted social sphere in which the students interacted: deep friendships, transient enmity, cliques and exclusion, the importance of social status, obedience and scholarship versus disobedience and indolence, and relationships with teachers and other authority figures like the older girls.

The Governess is an early novel written for an audience of young readers, perhaps the earliest in English. Fielding herself attended a boarding school, and her novel covers the activities of a week, beginning with a very bad day on which the young students fight hand to hand over a basket of apples.
The gentler Correspondence combines an epistolary account of a student’s studies, entertainments, relationships, and jealousies at her school with her mother’s loving moral advice.
More exciting is The Rebellious School Girl, where a student’s unkind drawing of her vain teacher, Miss Frivol, sets in motion a story of disobedience, punishment, false accusations of theft, broken limbs, and the eventual triumph of justice.
Similarly, in The Girls of Cromer Hall, Betty is obnoxious, gets expelled, causes trouble in her new school, responds to an effective head girl, and shows signs of moral improvement. 
Ironically, the best known novel about a girls’ school falls outside the conventions of the genre. The story of Sarah Crewe, the most famous schoolgirl of all, who is orphaned and plummets from favored boarder to household drudge, is an account of the plucky heroine overcoming tragedy, rather than one of normal schoolgirl tribulations.

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