The "Dying child's wish complex" : a case study of the relationship between reality and tradition

Kearney Guigné, Anna (1993) The "Dying child's wish complex" : a case study of the relationship between reality and tradition. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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This thesis is a case study of the relationship of the Dying Child's Wish complex, its related beliefs and associated practices, and "reality." The nucleus of this complex of narratives and beliefs concerns a little boy (variously named Mario, Craig, Jarrod, Blaine), who is dying from a terminal illness. His wish is to have his name recorded in The Guinness Book of Records for having collected the greatest number of get-well cards (or alternately postcards, Christmas cards, stamps, hats or other such items). -- Since 1987 four real appeals for world records have been launched using the same means generally associated with contemporary legend--that is by word of mouth as well as by office technology and the media. As the parents soon found out however, once an appeal is launched, it became impossible to halt renegade appeals and the public's response was subsequently overwhelming and irrepressible. One effect of these renegade appeals was the generation of a quagmire of distorted and missing information, the consequences of which have led to speculation, and the invention and generation of numerous scenarios based both on both fact and fiction. -- Using the Craig Shergold appeal as a focus, this study explores how textual variation and change in the presentation of information influences individual perceptions regarding both the real and legendary nature of Dying Child appeals. When a total of 204 texts were individually compared against an Enhanced Baseline Profile of the Shergold Appeal, results showed that all texts but one varied from the reality of the appeal in some major or minor way in terms of both missing information and incorrect information. A consequence was the generation of numerous scenarios ranging from positive support for the appeal to views of debate and rejection. Examination of the rhetorical statements and textual changes in texts also showed that perceptions varied considerably from positive support for the Craig Shergold campaign to cynical views that the appeal was less than real. This in turn led to the creation of a body of lore surrounding real appeals and the resulting generation of the Dying Child's Wish complex.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Item ID: 5504
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves 205-250.
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Folklore
Date: 1993
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Wishes; Urban folklore; Terminally ill children

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