In Pricing the Priceless Child: The Changing Social Value of Children, Viviana A. Zelizer discusses the "sacralization" of child life in nineteenth century Europe and the United States. According to Zelizer, a growing public response to child death gave way to a new popular literary genre, consolation literature, in which "countless stories and poems described with great detail the 'all-absorbing' grief of losing one's child" (26.) Under this rise in consolation literature lay the public perception of childhood as sacred and precious.
Do Wole Soyinka's Aké, Buchi Emecheta's The Slave Girl, and Graham Swift's Waterland, present childhood in the same manner as nineteenth-century European and American consolation literature? Do they view childhood as a sacred part of human life, or childhood as fundamentally separate from adulthood? Does childhood exist at all? The discussions listed below examine how Soyinka, Emecheta, and Swift convey three distinct views of childhood.