Introductory activities

The text that this unit is based on is: The Man Who Loved Children, Stead, C. The Miegunyah Press, Victoria, 2010.

Background reading

As background, students can read this article about The Man Who Loved Children focusing on the complex nature of its autobiographical elements, containing details about Stead’s life and discussing her intentions when writing the novel.

After reading the article, students can consider:

  • Do we need to know about Christina Stead’s life before reading the novel?
  • What are some of the perspectives on the novel shared in the article?

Students may also watch the beginning of the Wheeler Centre’s Lecture about the novel. There is a brief introduction by the host, and the lecture starts at 06:40.

  • What facts about Christina Stead does the host mention? List some of them. Come back to these short autobiographical details later, as they pertain to the content of the novel.


Outline of key elements of the text

The Man Who Loved Children (1940) explores the dynamics of the Pollit family, largely through the perspective of the adolescent Louisa Pollit as she comes of age. The unhappy marriage between Sam and his second wife Henny is a key thematic concern of the novel, which observes and comments on the family’s challenges in a series of episodic chapters that chronicle the decline and unhappiness experienced by the Pollits. Sam’s eccentricities and his attempts to control his six children are viewed through Louisa’s critical eye, and the novel is alternately humorous and tragic in its tone. Largely ignored for years after its publication, The Man Who Loved Children was rediscovered through efforts to revive and popularise classic texts by Australian authors in the 1960s. A semi-autobiographical work based on Stead’s childhood in Sydney, the setting of the novel was changed to America at the request of its original publisher. The Man Who Loved Children can be read as a psychological domestic drama, a melodrama, a bildungsroman, a work of realism or as a satirical comment on politics in 1930s America.

Personal response

The class can consider this question by making a mind map: What do we believe makes ‘a happy family’?

Students list all the factors they associate with happiness within families. After sharing and discussion, they consider the following questions:

  • In what way/s has the image of family changed in the twenty-first century?
  • Is a ‘nuclear family’ more likely to be a happy family?

The class may wish to write short responses on whether they agree or disagree with the second question.
(ACELR053)   (ACELR054)   (ACELR056)   (ACELR058)

The family in the novel

The Man Who Loved Children is about the Pollit family, consisting of a husband and wife, their children, and the husband’s daughter from a previous marriage. It explores their increasingly unhappy family life and spirals towards a traumatic and dramatic conclusion.

Students are to take on the role of a concerned outsider looking in at the Pollit family:

This novel concerns a marriage between two flawed individuals. Henny, the wife, doesn’t manage the household budget and is quite depressed and isolated – often retreating to her bedroom to play solitaire and get away from her family. She lives in a fantasy world and is keen to meet other men for dinner, as she enjoys being spoiled and being the focus of attention. Sam, the husband, is dominating and a bully towards his children, often forcing them to do things against their will and becoming angry whenever they disagree with him or think independently. At the beginning of the novel, the couple have five younger children and are bringing up the daughter from Sam’s first marriage. They appear to have little in common and come from different social backgrounds. One of the sons is so worried about money that he hoards away pocket money. The eldest child empathises more with her stepmother than her father, whom she detests. Whenever the child, Louisa, has any ideas of her own, her father tends to insult and humiliate her. He continually asserts his own point of view, and generally holds unusual and highly individualistic opinions.

  • What are some of the problems identifiable from this brief synopsis of the Pollit family’s situation?
  • Can students think of anything that would help them to improve their family life?

Reflecting on their beliefs about families, students can identify some of the issues that affect the Pollit family.
(ACELR053)   (ACELR054)

Responding as a reader

Stead uses characterisation in a complex manner. The Pollit family can either be perceived as:

  • A realistic and semi-autobiographical reflection of individuals in Stead’s family
  • Constructs that illustrate different aspects of human nature
  • Characters presented to us in a satirical light, and who represent aspects of Australian and American culture. (For example, Louisa’s exaggerated despair can be understood as a melodramatic depiction of the self-centred struggles of adolescence, whereas Henny’s dysfunctional marriage may critique aspects of social stratification and portray the indulgence of the wealthier classes in America.)

In pairs, students go back and read the summary from the last activity. Then explore the Pollits from a different perspective – that of a critical reader.


  • What vision of society does the Pollit family reflect? What could their issues tell us about the world around them, and about the aspects of that world that Stead is interested in exploring throughout the novel?
  • What sources of conflict and issues are contained within the passage? How do you anticipate these issues will influence the direction of the plot throughout the novel?

Read pp. 3–5 of the novel, which introduces us to Henny.

  • What does Henny’s attitude towards her children indicate about her life?
  • How does Stead create a sense of the prevailing mood of decay in these pages?

(ACELR054)   (ACELR058)


Synthesising task

Louisa Pollit: an autobiographical protagonist?

Consider some potential similarities between Louisa and Christina Stead. Through researching Stead’s life, fill in the following table with information that compares her life to Louisa’s:

Louisa Pollit Christina Stead
The only child of a first marriage, reared with several younger half-siblings

Desperate to escape an eccentric and dominating father

Creative, lonely and artistic as a child

Feels like an outcast trapped as a witness to an unhappy marriage

(ACELR057)   (ACELR058)   (ACELR069)

The Writer’s Craft

Tracing the plot

Students may find the plot guide questions (PDF, 135KB) useful for making notes as they read each chapter. These guide questions are also useful for the synthesising activity that appears below.


The novel contains many themes related to family life, adolescence and coming of age. Some of the themes are shocking and confronting. Students may select three to four topics from the following list that they see as most important to their understanding of the novel. They are listed in no particular order:

  • growing up
  • blended families
  • poverty/money
  • individualism
  • suicide/murder
  • isolation
  • madness
  • adolescent coming-of-age
  • marriage
  • sibling dynamics
  • toxic parents
  • female oppression
  • egotism and self-centredness.

Students are to find examples of events and quotations that reflect the chosen topic, justifying why it is one of the most important ideas presented in the novel. On the basis of these quotations, they develop the topic into a theme, ‘a statement about life, arising from the interplay of key elements of the text’, summarising the values evoked by that topic.

Once the theme is written students may create a pie chart, demonstrating what percentage of the novel is concerned with different themes and ideas.

  • Is The Man Who Loved Children mostly concerned with one main theme, or are there several equally important themes explored in the novel?

(ACELR057)   (ACELR061)


Sam Pollit

There are some interesting comments on the Wheeler Centre lecture in a blog post:

Students may think about the observation that Sam Pollit ‘would have loved social media’ to pry into the lives of others.

  • Is Sam’s invasiveness his worst attribute?
  • Is there something about Sam that is more upsetting than this?
  • Why do you think Stead created such a major character who is essentially unlikeable?

Students should consider Samuel Pollit’s statement to his sister: ‘It’s not even right they should be forced to go to school when they have a father like me: I can teach my children.’ (p. 109)

  • What does this statement tell you about his personality and his perception of his role as a father?

Sam’s statements

Students can examine some of the statements that Sam makes. His views are an interesting mixture of idealism and self-centredness, a romanticised understanding of the world blended with a dose of egotism and an occasionally cruel attitude towards his children. Some of his statements include:

  • ‘I love men and women, I love little children and all innocent things, I love, I feel I am love itself.’ (p. 19)
  • ‘We are all, so important to ourselves, only members of a species. The species must be our concern.’ (p. 47)
  • ‘We must never think about money or of owning things.’ (p. 104)
  • (To his daughter Louisa) ‘Stop it, you fathead, you silly fathead…do you want to make an idiot of yourself? You don’t know what you look like, you great fat lump.’ (p. 113)
  • ‘You know I stick to my principles through thick and thin. You know, you all know, I have never faltered in what I believe to be the right.’ (p. 261)

There are a number of other statements – read in isolation, they may seem well-meaning, but the battle of wills that eventuates between Louisa and Sam demonstrates his desire to control others and his need for admiration.

Students can find one or two of Sam’s statements that they feel best represent his nature, sharing these quotes and explaining what they reveal about Sam’s character.

Students should now write a paragraph commenting on Stead’s use of characterisation and dialogue to reveal Sam’s often egocentric and shocking ideas.

Samuel Pollit: Looking for love? 

Read the review of the novel by novelist Michelle de Krester in The Monthly.

  • What contradictions does it mention about the novel?

Consider what the review has to say about Sam’s character and motivations. Using the information provided by the review and their own understanding of Sam’s interests and preoccupations, students can create a dating profile for Sam. Imagine that he has decided to look for a relationship after Henny’s death, and write a paragraph in the voice of Sam discussing what he believes are his most attractive attributes. Explain what he is looking for in a potential girlfriend.

Students will discuss their profiles with other members of the class. This should become a light-hearted exercise where they consider Sam’s essential egotism and the eccentric nature of his personality.
(ACELR060)   (ACELR061)   (ACELR064)

Dialogue and monologue

Sam and dialogue

The conversation between Sam and his children on pp. 42–44 of the novel is a typical example of the Pollit family’s interactions with each other: punctuated by Sam’s overconfident or didactic assertions, which are often interrupted by the children and interspersed with brief observations about the family’s situation or activities. The Man Who Loved Children is a novel that is remarkable for its copious use of dialogue. Another example (pp. 346–47) where Sam talks about his dreams for Louie illustrates the divide between them even as they try to hold a conversation with one another.

As a class, reflect on:

  • Why are we often told to ‘avoid too much dialogue’ in our short stories? Does the same rule apply for a novel? Why or why not?
  • What does dialogue tell us that direct characterisation or descriptive passages cannot explore? Can dialogue tell us what we need to know about a character, or is it often too biased and subjective?

Henny and monologue

Henny’s monologues (pp. 262–63) plead with the other characters to display empathy and compassion for her pitiable situation. Have a student read out this monologue as the rest of the class considers its tone.

  • What is your reaction?
  • How does Stead use Henny’s melodramatic tone to shape our opinion of her?



Synthesising activities

 1. Seminar presentation

The novel is divided into ten lengthy chapters, each of which deals with distinct events and themes. In pairs or in groups of three, students will closely read a chosen chapter and present a five-minute ‘seminar presentation’ on it to the class. The aim of this activity is to encourage students to find the main ideas presented to them in the novel and to develop their own specific ‘reading’ or perspective on it. They may use the plot guide questions (PDF, 135KB) to direct them towards key ideas. Students may choose to address a single question, or to use all the questions to guide their reading of the chapter.

It is suggested that students avoid PowerPoint presentations for this activity; there are many good alternative platforms if they wish to integrate ICT into their presentations. Prezi is the obvious alternative, or SlideDog is another way to present material from various sources. Instead of relying on, or reading out slides, students are encouraged to make their presentations interactive.

While listening to each presentation, the class should fill out the following table:

Chapter No. Main ideas Key events Character development Contribution to the purpose of the novel







Each presentation should demonstrate an understanding of the main purpose and themes of the novel.

Students should also feel free to choose a particular event or conversation from the chapter (this is a novel that is rich in memorable dialogue to discuss in detail with the class).

2. Exploring conflict in the novel 

  • In pairs, students can choose one of the sources of conflict that they identified in ‘The family in the novel’ activity from the Initial Response section of this unit OR select one of the issues that creates tension between Henny and her children in the opening pages of the novel. They will select two characters from the novel and write a duologue in which this conflict is addressed. (Students do not need to resolve the conflict as many conflicts within the novel remain unresolved.) Once they have finished, students will read their duologue out to another pair and compare representations of the Pollit family.
  • Individually, students will return to the novel. It is a lengthy text and is dominated by dialogue. They should find a passage where conflict is represented through dialogue. Students will compare their duologue to the style, features and tone of Stead’s passage, writing down three to five points of comparison.
  • In pairs, students will discuss the comparisons that they found and will consider the following questions:
    • What can Stead’s writing style teach you about effective writing?
    • Are there aspects of Stead’s style that you can adapt to your own writing?
  • Individually, students will return to the duologue that they created in pairs. Their task is to turn this duologue into a piece of prose writing. They can add to or abbreviate some of the dialogue originally composed. Students will use their observations of Stead’s writing style to guide the composition of their short piece of prose.
  • Students are now ready to write a brief reflection about their finished work. They need to discuss what the activity taught them about observing and responding to the writing style of an author when composing an imaginative piece of writing.

(ACELR056)   (ACELR058)   (ACELR059)   (ACELR061)   (ACELR062)   (ACELR063)   (ACELR067)

Researching the writer

Christina Stead (1902–83) was a notable Australian writer. Growing up in Sydney with her half-siblings, she was the only child of her father’s first marriage. Stead was a sensitive and often lonely adolescent, much like Louisa Pollit in the novel. She was estranged from her father in adulthood and spent most of her adult life living abroad, leaving Australia in 1928 and returning after the death of her husband in 1968. Her most widely read novels, For Love Alone and The Man Who Loved Children, are based on events in her life. It is commonly accepted that the character of Sam Pollit, a domineering father, is based on Stead’s own father:

She blamed her father, a naturalist, for forming her, deforming her, giving her up to bad stepmothers who couldn’t love her, and she wrote David Stead no letters after she left. But The Man Who Loved Children, first published with little fanfare in 1940, enshrines her rage and love. Stead declared the book ‘terribly lifelike’, and too painful for her to ever reread.

Hilary Mc Phee, in The Australian, 2017

Stead was a committed Marxist. She worked in a bank in Paris for five years in the 1930s. The Man Who Loved Children was written in the late 1930s and published in 1940, although it was not initially successful. The novel was only read widely after being re-released in 1965 with an essay by the American poet Randall Jarrell praising the novel. Indeed, there were decades where Christina Stead’s work was largely forgotten. The Australian novelist Patrick White admired The Man Who Loved Children after reading the reissued text and was influential in promoting it. Indeed, a 2015 symposium at the University of New South Wales examined why Stead is still being ‘rediscovered’ and why her work is currently growing in popularity.

Students can discuss: Does a ‘classic’ text need to have been popular in its own time?

Stead was a screenwriter in Hollywood and taught at New York University in the 1940s. She wrote twelve novels and several short stories during her lifetime. Many were out of print until a new interest in Australian literature led to them being re-released. When The Man Who Loved Children was published again in 1965, all of Stead’s novels were out of print.

It is useful for students to complete some background reading about Stead’s life before they encounter the novel. The article ‘The Woman who Loved Words’ (first published in 1986) deals with her descent into literary obscurity before the republication of The Man Who Loved Children. This article also explores the characters of Sam and Henny in a detailed and refreshing manner.


Ways of reading the text

Franzen’s essay

Jonathan Franzen, a notable author, has written a memorable essay on the novel. It is perceptive, well worth a read, and also located at the beginning of the 2010 edition.

  • What does Franzen mention that is significant from a feminist perspective (p. ix)? Do you agree with his reading?
  • Franzen is clearly moved and intrigued by the character of Louisa Pollit (pp. xi–xiii). What does he feel is remarkable about Louie and the role she plays in the novel?
  • The autobiographical nature of Sam Pollit is clearly addressed by Franzen towards the end of his essay.Do you think it is important for readers to know these details about David Stead? Does it change your reading of the novel?

The novel as a critique of America

Stead’s novels are notably autobiographical: like Louisa Pollit, she was the only child of a first marriage and was brought up by her stepmother alongside numerous younger half-siblings. As an adult, Stead was estranged from her father, wrote scathingly of him in the novel, and Louisa’s escape reads as an example of wish-fulfillment when one considers Stead’s adolescence. However, it is possible to read Sam’s character as an Australian’s critique of America:

Her claim that ‘I wrote what I saw’ is disingenuous; the transformation of her father into Sam Pollit, named for the American humorist Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) and a British Communist Party leader, is part of a narrative strategy that generates criticism of American paternalism and capitalism.

Margaret Harris in The Australian Dictionary of Biography 

Seen within this reading, Stead’s novel becomes even more complex and interesting. The Australian Dictionary of Biography also mentions Stead’s ‘refusal to write for popular taste’, and how this meant that she was sometimes unable to financially support herself as a writer. How do you think The Man Who Loved Children reflects this refusal? What parts of the novel indicate that it was not written to be read as popular fiction?

In a 2011 article, Michael Ackland claims that The Man Who Loved Children is a socialist criticism of the ‘New Deal’ in America. This is a useful reading, as Christina Stead’s connections with Communism informed many of her works. It is important to note that, though the novel appears to be about the lives of a family, economic issues are frequently discussed in the novel, and a more obviously socialist novel would have had trouble finding a publisher. Two competing readings of the novel are of the characters and situations as being primarily autobiographical, or of the novel as being concerned with a socialist critique of America.

Ackland argues that:

Chronologically the book is set in the years 1936 to 1938, but its main protagonist, Samuel Clemens Pollit, draws inspiration from the first Roosevelt administration, which substituted central planning and government largesse for hallowed doctrines of economic laissez-faire and character-forming self-reliance. Pollit thus supports a controversial agenda labeled Communist by its detractors, yet officially presented in humanitarian, populist terms: a constellation of conflicting view-points subtly recalled by his own name, which links a local humorist and humanist, Mark Twain, with a patronym derived from the Secretary of the British Communist Party, Harry Pollitt…

in ‘”Socialists for a new socialism?” Christina Stead’s Critique of 1930s America in The Man Who Loved Children’

He sees each of the characters and locations as representing particular aspects of America: the deceased first wife from New England, the wealthy Southern second wife in a state of decline, Sam Pollit as a patriotic and pioneering version of Uncle Sam – America. Sam’s career as a bureaucrat in Washington DC is significant in terms of this reading of the novel, as is his tendency to quote or paraphrase past American presidents.

  • Is The Man Who Loved Children an Australian’s view of America?
  • If we are reading it as Australian literature, should we focus more on its links to Stead’s childhood than on references to American politics that we may not be able to relate to or understand?

Students may wish to read about Uncle Sam, considering if there are any noticeable parallels to Sam Pollit.

Evaluation of the text as Australian literature

An article in The Independent notes the irony of the novel: originally forgotten, it has been recently celebrated as its themes are inherently contemporary. Indeed, critics have viewed the novel as one of the great American novels of the twentieth century – until realising that its author was Australian. The article contains further commentary.

Another novel that superficially contains an American setting is Be Ready With Bells and Drums (1961) by Elizabeth Kata, also published as A Patch of Blue. The 1965 film of this novel was popular and won an Academy Award, but few viewers realised that the book it was based on had been written by an Australian who had never travelled to America. It is worthwhile for students to consider the reasons behind the obscuring of the authors’ nationality. The importance of an international readership and the lack of investment in the Australian publishing industry at the time led to Stead and Kata producing stories set in America in order to ensure that their work was published.

Christina Stead revealed in a 1979 interview published in the Journal of Poetics Research that her years as an expatriate living overseas did not result from a burning desire to leave Australia. Throughout the interview, she expressed her affection for Sydney and discussed the very rich and full life that she experienced. Interestingly, Stead did not consider herself a ‘professional writer’, despite her considerable publishing output. Her assertive tone and lively observations make the transcript of this interview an interesting one to read. Her comments about Henny (seen as a heroine by the women’s liberation movement of the 1970s) are also interesting, as are the autobiographical details that she shares.

Group discussion

When reading the novel – a significant work by an Australian author living abroad, and a work which is set in America – it is useful to consider what we mean by ‘Australian literature’. As a class, students can discuss and debate the following:

  • What do you think makes ‘an Australian novel’?
  • Is it enough that the author was born in Australia?
  • Does the author need to have been living in Australia while writing the novel?
  • Should the novel be set in Australia?
  • Is it enough for the plot to have been inspired by events in Australia?

In small groups consider some points for and against the central question: Can The Man Who Loved Children be considered a work of ‘Australian’ literature?

Are the following grounds for the book to be regarded as Australian?

  • The language used in the novel is neither distinctively American, nor recognisably Australian – the characters often speak in a unique and idiomatic way within their family.
  • Stead deliberately obscures the setting to appeal to American readers, and the novel was written a year after Stead’s emigration to America.
  • The plot is semi-autobiographical and is based on a childhood spent in Sydney. In particular, the character of Sam Pollit appears to be based on Stead’s father, and her position as the eldest half sibling is similar to that of Louisa Pollit.
  • Stead spent most of her adult life outside of Australia after leaving when she was twenty-five, and was rejected for an Australian literary award in 1969 on the grounds that she was no longer an Australian.
  • The novel was initially a failure in terms of sales, but critics have enjoyed it over the years and it has been compared to works by the great Russian writer, Leo Tolstoy.

Share your views with the class and, as a class, develop a list of criteria to determine the nature of what can be considered a work of Australian literature in a globalised world?
(ACELR053)   (ACELR054)   (ACELR055)   (ACELR056)   (ACELR057)   (ACELR058)   (ACELR061)


Synthesising tasks

Exploring genre: satire, tragedy or bildungsroman?

Guardian review argues that the novel has tragic elements. It is commonly considered to be a work of realism with some elements of satire. The domestic drama is confronting and hard-hitting. The characters are at once multi-dimensional, alternately complex and seemingly simplistic.

However, there is a great deal of exaggeration in the novel, particularly in terms of its use of simple characterisation (one-dimensional characters who do not change or develop throughout the course of the novel – most notably Sam). Other reviewers have considered it to be a work of satire. It also has elements of realism and autobiography.

1. Class debate

As a class, divide into two groups based on your opinions and debate the following statement:

The genre of a novel determines the way we read it.

Spend 15 to 20 minutes brainstorming ideas in your group to present your side of the case.

The affirmative (for) side may want to consider the many genres that The Man Who Loved Children falls into. Do we see it as:

  • a tragedy because of its horrific end (and the revelation about Henny’s finances that enables us to see her in a more sympathetic light),
  • a satirical vision of family life, or
  • as a coming-of-age novel about Louisa’s growth and development?

Each reading relies on a different understanding of the characters, ideas and events in the novel. However, the negative (against) side may want to consider the value of a close study of the novel – looking at all its themes, characters and events.

Do we have to consider genre at all to appreciate the text? Can this merely limit our understanding of the novel, or force us to ignore parts of the novel which don’t suit our beliefs about its genre? Is the idea of genre a limiting concept in the first place?

(Students might find that the English Textual Concepts can provide some useful pointers about genre to support them in their debate.)

After each side has presented their case, discuss what was learned from considering different ideas about the novel. Students may wish to take notes during the debate about a variety of ideas and opinions.

2. Infographics

An infographic contains words and images in a single layout to convey facts and ideas about a single topic. Students are to create an infographic that will encourage new readers to discover the novel.

  • Students need to consider the intended audience: who do they think would gain from reading the novel, and who is unlikely to have already read the novel?
  • Ensure that there is a wide selection of facts, quotes and ideas to appeal to this audience.
  • Students may wish to focus on a particular reading or idea in the novel (for example, a feminist reading if you wish to appeal to women, or some of the ideas about independence and family dynamics if you want to appeal to a broader audience of adolescents).

(ACELR053)   (ACELR055)   (ACELR056)   (ACELR064)   (ACELR068)

Synthesising activities

The ‘First Tuesday Book Club’

This television show contains a lively discussion of various responses to The Man Who Loved Children. It is evident that Stead’s novel polarises readers: some are turned off by its length, whilst others praise its complexity and grasp of a number of ideas. Consider the different perspectives on the novel the ‘First Tuesday Book Club’ video presents, along with a short synopsis of the main themes in the novel.

  • What does the panel have to say about the variety of responses that the novel provokes?
  • What are some of the criticisms made about the novel?
  • What do the panellists have to say about the characters in the novel?

An essay about the novel

David Kelly in his critical essay on the novel has this to say about Sam Pollit:

Sam’s love for children and his hopes for the future are tied together, only not in the way that he thinks. He is an idealist, but his ideals never really connect with actual people. He imagines himself having a hundred children, building a new society with them, yet he is woefully unaware of what is happening to the children he already has. When he goes to Singapore to study Asian culture, he ends up blocking out almost everything he experienced there, retaining only the fact that, during a discussion about different theological understandings, his secretary Naden told him: ‘Sah, you are as the gods.’

Sam’s interest in children is, in fact, no more deeply held than his interest in the servants that he rules over within the colonial system. His is an imperial ego supported by feeble competence: children and servants are the only ones who are forced to look up to him. Stead’s ironic fate for Sam at the end of the book is consigning him to the bliss of broadcasting his half-baked ideas over the radio to an audience of children, and to people with childish dispositions who would be willing to listen to someone like him.

  1. Why do you think Sam has been more thoroughly covered in critical discussions than Louisa Pollit, whose perspective makes up much of the novel, and who heroically attempts to remove herself from her father?
  2. David Kelly’s perspective is an interesting one. Sam is the eponymous (title) character of the novel; do we see the word ‘loved’ as ironic? What does the title suggest that the novel is about?
  3. Consider Sam’s lengthy monologues, his cruelty towards his children and his treatment of Henny. Is Sam a realistic character? Is Christina Stead making a comment about family life or about America? Or do you think she is merely attempting to present aspects of her own life and her relationship with her father?

 As a class, discuss who you think the ‘real’ Sam is.

Class discussion

There are many ways to interpret a text and these vary according to the lens through which we choose to read. Can this statement apply to other texts you have studied in class? In what ways?

Individual reflection

Write a reflection in which you consider the different ways you read various texts and why you do so.
(ACELR053)   (ACELR054)   (ACELR056)   (ACELR057)   (ACELR060)   (ACELR061)   (ACELR064)   (ACELR069)


Rich assessment task (productive and receptive modes)

Louisa Pollit is a writer – a resilient though tormented adolescent who enters a world of creative escapism through her writing. The novel mentions several of Louisa’s often comical literary efforts: the ‘Aiden Cycle’, in praise of her favourite teacher, her diary (containing scathing observations of her father) and various poems and sketches based on her life. Her play, Tragedy: The Snake-Man (p. 394) is clearly autobiographical and quite cutting in its perspective of her family. In fact, all Louisa’s writing appears to be highly derivative and autobiographical. (Stead may be commenting on her own use of autobiography in The Man Who Loved Children, or making a point about Louisa’s adolescent self-absorption and her rebellion against her unhappy and constraining family life.)

To demonstrate their understanding of the novel and enable students to experiment with different textual forms, they can produce three different pieces of writing from the perspective of Louisa Pollit. Students’ writing should be based on events and characters from the novel, and should clearly demonstrate Louisa’s views. Although their characters may be thinly based on characters from the novel, students are encouraged to be creative and original in their use of different text types.

Students may wish to compose:

  • Poetry, particularly odes (preferably of twelve or more lines), based on Louisa’s relationships with the other characters
  • A fable or fairytale based on Louisa’s family
  • Playscripts following on from Louisa’s early attempts at melodrama (you may even wish to write a radio script of what Louisa imagines Sam would say in his new program)
  • A short story exploring the psychological drama of the Pollit family
  • A different piece in a genre of their own choice.

This list is by no means exhaustive. Students may wish to experiment with a comic/satirical tone of voice, or the more melancholy and melodramatic voice that Louisa tends to use in her writing.

Students will be required to include a short reflection statement demonstrating the connection between their fictional writing and The Man Who Loved Children. They should explain how they have tried to evoke Louisa’s adolescent perspective, and discuss which themes their writing has addressed from the novel. Although they are welcome to speculate on Louisa’s life after Henny’s death, they may prefer to cover her reaction to specific events that take place during the novel.
(ACELR060)   (ACELR065)   (ACELR066)   (ACELR067)   (ACELR068)