Take Up Thy Bed and Walk: Death, Disability and Cure in Classic Fiction for Girls

Front Cover
Taylor & Francis, 2001 - Literary Criticism - 274 pages
1 Review
Heidi, The Secret Garden, and Pollyanna are all classic "girls' books," featuring a miracle cure of an invalid character who literally gets up and walks away from illness or paralysis. Such stories were common in Victorian novels and they implicitly conveyed the idea that disability and physical suffering were punishment for wrongdoing: unruly girls could not enter womanhood unless they were tamed, and an accident was the perfect plot device for this transformation. Other characters, like Helen Burns in Jane Eyre or Beth in Little Women, were just too good to live, and died so that another character could be redeemed by their example. Lois Keith points out in this study that the temptation to either cure or kill off disabled characters has surprising tenacity. The widespread belief that a disabled life isn't a full life and that patients can cure themselves through force of will endures to the present day. In Take Up Thy Bed & Walk, Lois Keith brings her lively and observant eye to the classic books of childhood from Jane Eyre, Heidi, and Pollyanna, to modern American classics such as Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie and Judy Blume's Deenie. Keith explores the recurring images of impairment and ill health in literature and asks the reader to reconsider the messages they send to a devoted young audience. This book is also a testament to the singular passion with which these books are read by younger readers and reminds us of the intensity of our own reading experience as children.

What people are saying - Write a review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - zeborah - LibraryThing

Talking about characters with disabilities in Jane Eyre, Little Women, What Katy Did, Heidi, Pollyanna, Seven Little Australians, and The Secret Garden (and with a followup on later and modern fiction ... Read full review


Acknowledgements vii
Deathbed Scenes
Clara in Heidi

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

References to this book

All Book Search results »

About the author (2001)

Lois Keith is a freelance writer, teacher, and civil rights activist in England. She is the editor of Musn't Grumble: Writing by Disabled Women, and the author of A Different Life, and Think About People Who Use Wheelchairs. She is the recipient of Great Britain's MIND Book of the Year Award, Book Trust's 100 Best Books of the Year, and was shortlisted for Great Britain's Nasen Special Education Award.

Bibliographic information