|Avery, Gillian (with the assistance of Angela Bull).
Century Children: Heroes and Heroines in English Children’s Stories 1780-1900
(London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1965).
Though Kingsley in real life did not like the punishing of children, believing that misbehavior often has a physical cause and that punishment can undermine a child’s relationship with his parents, punishment is a major theme in The Water-Babies. Avery declares that Kingsley wishes to point the moral that punishment is the natural consequence of sin. She also states that education is the primary purpose of The Water-Babies, “the education of the child to become the honest English gentleman that was Kingsley’s ideal” (49). Holding that education and teaching are quite distinct, Kingsley depicts Tom’s trials and subsequent learning and the final attainment of grace as constituting his true education.