Since the publication of Susan Warner’s novel The Wide, Wide World in 1850, its ending has puzzled critics: the orphaned heroine, Ellen Montgomery, is abruptly uprooted from her home in New York, to be adopted by her mother’s wealthy kin in Scotland. Usually read as an unrealistic expression of Warner’s conception of domesticity, in fact (as shown in this chapter) this episode of The Wide, Wide World participates in a long literary tradition of adoption narratives, complicating and problematizing the established tropes, especially those of transnational and transcultural adoption. Ellen’s Scottish adopters offer her wealth and access to education, and lavish affection on her, but denigrate her American habits and expect her to renounce her name and her friends. Negotiating the claims of the adoptive family Ellen remembers in New York and the biogenetic family that adopts her in Scotland, Ellen’s acculturation gives birth to a hybrid version of herself. In The Wide, Wide World, Warner rejects the binary of family versus others, affirming instead an ever-changing identity formed by a web of affiliations that comprise ancestry, friendship, spirituality, circumstances, and choices.

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