Books about sheltered people becoming worldly
September 20, 2017 2:38 AM   Subscribe

What are some books where the protagonist is naive/spoilt/sheltered and goes through a life changing experience that makes them worldly and resilient?

With a preference for the overall outcome to be positive rather than the protagonist experiencing PTSD and extended mental health issues.

An example would be 'Captain's Courageous' by Rudyard Kipling. An oldy but a goody.

Fiction or non fiction, either is fine. Nothing rapey.
posted by lazy robot to Writing & Language (42 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle!
posted by colorblock sock at 2:48 AM on September 20, 2017 [3 favorites]

Whit, by Iain Banks. Isis Whit, a young but important member of a small, quirky cult in Scotland, narrates. The community suspects that Isis' cousin Morag is in danger, and sends Isis out to help. ... Returning with enhanced maturity and a lot more information, Isis must decide what to tell the other members of the cult.
posted by quinndexter at 3:09 AM on September 20, 2017

The Secret Garden is one of my old faves that fits the heck of out this bill. I re-read it the other day actually, it's still lovely.
posted by greenish at 3:30 AM on September 20, 2017 [19 favorites]

A Little Princess is definitely this. A likeable, spoiled rich girl, something bad happens to her, she learns from the experience. It's lovely.
posted by Night_owl at 3:35 AM on September 20, 2017 [11 favorites]

posted by thelonius at 3:47 AM on September 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Martin Chuzzlewit (the American adventure part).
posted by Bardolph at 3:49 AM on September 20, 2017

This crops up in Dickens a lot I feel like. See also Bella (and arguably Eugene) in Our Mutual Friend.
posted by saladin at 4:01 AM on September 20, 2017

Call the Midwife- mostly middle and upper class nurses treating working class East Londoners.
posted by threetwentytwo at 4:12 AM on September 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Emma, by Jane Austen.
posted by Diablevert at 4:13 AM on September 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

I Am Not Esther by Fleur Beale is about a girl sent to live with her very religious uncle and his family.

While this is not what you're looking for, I think the other two books in the series are: I am Rebecca and Being Magdalene.

They are young adult books set in New Zealand with a fictional cult based upon the Exclusive Brethren. Caveat: one of the characters has been raped in the past and it is talked about.
posted by poxandplague at 4:23 AM on September 20, 2017

Me Before You hits this note pretty well for the main female character.
posted by emd3737 at 4:33 AM on September 20, 2017

The Hobbit.
posted by runincircles at 5:00 AM on September 20, 2017 [7 favorites]

Also, Ada in Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier
posted by runincircles at 5:03 AM on September 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

The Witch of Blackbird Pond is about a privileged young woman from Barbados who goes to live with her aunt's family in a Puritan community in Connecticut.

A Horse and His Boy also comes to mind. Shasta is poor and a slave in all but name, his traveling companion Aravis is wealthy and kinda snooty. By the end of they are heroes, and have learned to accept each other.
posted by bunderful at 5:14 AM on September 20, 2017 [5 favorites]

The Painted Veil, and Of Human Bondage, both by M. Somerset Maugham
posted by winterportage at 5:15 AM on September 20, 2017

Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters.
posted by threetwentytwo at 5:27 AM on September 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

Radix by A. A. Atanasio.

Spoiled fat kid gets arrested and sent to the military where he becomes a lean mean fighting machine. A new world is revealed to him and he further transforms into a god.

Sounds good but I can NOT recommend it! The first one quarter is good. The last three quarters is filled with some of the most tortuous prose on every single page I've ever read. But lots of people like it and it was a nominee for Hugo and/or Nebula so maybe I'm the odd one.
posted by Lord Fancy Pants at 5:27 AM on September 20, 2017

Jack London's The Call of the Wild (if you accept canine protagonists), wherein a domestic dog is stolen and sold to become a working sled-dog during the Klondike gold rush.
posted by Morfil Ffyrnig at 6:02 AM on September 20, 2017 [3 favorites]

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler.
posted by Violet Hour at 6:03 AM on September 20, 2017

MeFi favorite Riddley Walker, although the prose, while good, is challenging.
posted by Gorgik at 6:23 AM on September 20, 2017

If you like plague novels, Year of Wonders is very much like this. Very sheltered rural woman in 1666 learns about the world. Very much agree with the Secret Garden suggestion too.
posted by jessamyn at 6:52 AM on September 20, 2017 [3 favorites]

The Hobbit.

I don't think it's a coincidence that Martin Freeman played Bilbo Baggins after having also played Arthur Dent in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie. Their initial character arcs are basically the same: A comfortable suburbanite gets dropped into the deep end of a huge adventure that requires them to adopt a more all-inclusive perspective on the world around them.
posted by Strange Interlude at 7:02 AM on September 20, 2017 [3 favorites]

The Queen and I by Sue Townsend. The monarchy gets the boot after a general election, the UK becomes a republic, and the Royal Family have to go live in a council estate.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 7:17 AM on September 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

I think the whole "bildungsroman" genre could arguably fit your criteria. The wikipedia page has bunch of examples.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 7:33 AM on September 20, 2017 [7 favorites]

I am basking after just finishing a reread but I Capture The Castle seems to fit.
posted by PussKillian at 7:33 AM on September 20, 2017

Maybe Pip in Great Expectations
posted by falsedmitri at 7:48 AM on September 20, 2017

Cause Celeb by Helen Fielding - who also wrote the Bridget Jones books. Spoiled white girl from London ends up helping out at a refugee camp in a fictional African country. She has to return to London and realizes how much she has grown.
posted by soelo at 8:09 AM on September 20, 2017

How I Live Now is about a upper class New Yorker who has to live with her British cousins for a year... and then WWIII breaks out.
posted by spunweb at 8:46 AM on September 20, 2017 [5 favorites]

Portrait of a Lady fits, although the ending is ambiguous to darkish. Sheltered young lady visits England after the death of her spendthrift father, inherits large fortune, things happen. James writes with great sensitivity about the encounter of such a mind with evil.

For non-fiction, you might try a biography of Edith Wharton, like Hermione Lee's. Her husband went insane early on, disrupting her ability to lead a "standard" upper-class life of the time.
posted by praemunire at 9:02 AM on September 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery fits this, I think. Not very dark or worldly, though there is threat of sexual assault at one point.
posted by pepper bird at 10:02 AM on September 20, 2017

A childhood favorite that absolutely fits: Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher.
posted by dlugoczaj at 10:17 AM on September 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

I feel like Dune would probably fit the bill.
posted by helloimjennsco at 10:30 AM on September 20, 2017

Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse comes to mind.
posted by Gosha_Dog at 12:17 PM on September 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

the bell jar.
posted by katieanne at 1:58 PM on September 20, 2017

Lots written by Charles Dickens--in addition to what's mentioned above, David Copperfield.

True Grit by Charles Portis.
posted by Miss T.Horn at 4:57 PM on September 20, 2017

Eustace Scrubb in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
posted by mollywas at 7:09 PM on September 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

This may be a little broad for the topic, but the entire canon of Buddhism is based on this exact thing happening to an Indian prince. He's so sheltered he has no concept that people ever age, get ill, or die.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 3:57 AM on September 21, 2017

The case can be made that this is what happened to Franklin Roosevelt when he contracted polio. Not entirely callow beforehand, but eminently stronger, empathetic, and driven afterward.

I forget which particular bio would be best. I think Jean Edward Smith’s is good on this. The earlier ones tend to be too hagiographic.
posted by nothing.especially.clever at 4:32 AM on September 21, 2017

Kivrin in Connie Willis' Doomsday Book.
Empire of the Sun maybe?
posted by low_horrible_immoral at 5:04 AM on September 21, 2017

The Sea Wolf, also by Jack London.

Several of the novels of Nevil Shute are built around the theme that one person can make a difference, usually after some sort of awakening experience. Trustee From The Toolroom is a place to start.
posted by SemiSalt at 7:23 AM on September 21, 2017

Bastian in The Neverending Story (the book, not the movie)
posted by ananci at 3:30 PM on September 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

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