THE IDYLLIC FREEDOM OF THE CHILD OF NATURE was a popular notion in both the Romantic and Victorian periods. But the wild child, or what we might call the child of nature taken to extremes, stirs the imagination in deeper ways. This is the child represented as radically orphaned, existing outside of language, and alienated from human social bonds; yet it establishes bonds with the natural world that mimic human object relations and thus suggests an oceanic dyadic connectedness with the non-human. Linking the idea of wildness with the idea of child, the nineteenth-century adult imagination generates a figure of “danger and desire” (1.472), to appropriate Wordsworth’s evocative phrase, one which represents both impossible connection and irremediable alienation.
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