Long Absent Soon Forgotten Essay Format
Opioids and Paternalism
To help end the crisis, both doctors and patients need to find a new way to think about pain
What are we feeling when we are feeling joy? And where inside us does that feeling reside?
Emily Fox Gordon
As a writer, with a writer’s chronic need for detachment, I have avoided the ideology of gender
In slowly gentrifying Detroit, you might see a fox, or even a coyote, but where have all the stray dogs gone?
A Jane Austen Kind of Guy
I get it that women find my affinity for their writer intrusive, but her world has much to offer men, too
Our Nuclear Future
We may think the bomb is back, but it never really went away
Elizabeth D. Samet
The scourge of military sexual assault and the warrior’s masculine code
Reading Thoreau at 200
Why is the seminal work of the great American transcendentalist held in such scorn today?
My Mongolian Spot
Jennifer Hope Choi
An ephemeral birthmark is a rare gift, connecting me to generations spanning the centuries
Things Sweet to Taste
Much to my regret, I never truly knew the woman who helped raise me
Goodbye to Westbrook Acres
As a writer walks and muses, the world’s sorrows intrude upon the peaceful streets he will be leaving
A Brief History of Secession
Why Calexit might not be as crazy as you think
On Political Correctness
Power, class, and the new campus religion
How My Italian-American husband ate his way into the good graces of my African-American family
The Cloistered Books of Peru
A convent in the Andes is home to a treasure trove of rare, and possibly unique, early volumes
After a loss from which there is no recovery, I turned to books—not for solace or forgetting, but simply to survive
The Ultimate Pawn Sacrifice
My brother’s life mirrored that of Bobby Fischer, the deeply troubled chess master
“We Must Not Be Enemies”
Progressives who wish for a less reactionary America could begin by trying to understand the Trump voter
Milton Friedman’s Misadventures in China
Julian B. Gewirtz
The stubborn advocate of free markets tangles with the ideologues of a state-run economy
The Life Unlived
On W. G. Sebald and the uncertainties of time
When beavers came between us and a farmer down the road, we knew something more was at stake
A life spent mainly in the company of cats has meant relishing the comforts of domesticity and solitude
Tales From Motor City
Left for dead yet pulsing with life again, Detroit survives as a place of inconsistency and contradiction
The Last Bursts of Memory
As my father’s dementia progressed, the stories of his life became less accurate but more vivid
The Virtue of an Educated Voter
The Founders believed that a well-informed electorate preserves our fragile democracy and benefits American society as a whole
Can the collaboration between a progressive boarding school and a big-city charter academy transform American Public High School Education?
Writing the Unimaginable
When future generations look back at the fiction of our time, what will they make of the failure to address the crisis of climate change?
Put a Bird on It
How did a beguiling South American hummingbird end up in the basement of a Pennsylvania museum?
Death can come at any time, from above or below, but life requires putting fear aside
Thine as Ever, P. T. Barnum
A. H. Saxon
A scholar offers three utterly fictitious letters he wishes the famous showman had written
Little Bowls of Colors
Writing in a foreign language can reveal secrets long buried in our mother tongue
The Taming of the Wild
As we celebrate the centenary of the National Park Service, a meditation on “the best idea that America ever had”
The FBI, My Husband, and Me
What I know now about Ted, whose photographs documented the 1960s, and about J. Edgar Hoover’s attempts to label him a Soviet spy
The Truth About Dallas
Howard P. Willens and Richard M. Mosk
Looking back at the investigation of the Kennedy assassination and the controversies that dogged it from the start
The Other Woman
A mother’s devastating secret, and its many reverberations, present and past
A restless traveler finds solace in the quiet beauty of the annual sandhill crane migration
Waiting for Fire
As smoke thickens and ash falls, an esteemed Napa vintner prepares to save his home and livelihood
It’s time for police officers to start demanding gun laws that could end up saving their own lives
Saving the Self in the Age of the Selfie
We must learn to humanize digital life as actively as we’ve digitized human life—here’s how
A New Heaven and a New Earth
During the Spanish Civil War, an alternative vision of society briefly flourished in Barcelona
I Will Love You in the Summertime
Between the rupture of life and the rapture of language lies a world of awe and witness
The Remains of My Days
Fond and fading memories of a robust literary life
Meditation on a Rat
Who would have thought that this unlikely creature could help make a family whole again?
My sweet, gentle parents had their demons, but they kept me safe
Our increasing reliance on drugs—prescribed, over-the-counter, illegal, and ordered online like pizza—suggests we have a deeper problem
How Chemistry Became Biology
And how LUCA, Earth’s first living cell, became Lucas, my adorable grandnephew
The advent of new religions in the 1800s led to fierce debates that persist today
The sensations of landing on the island long ago haunted a writer’s final memories
A Life in Letters
Merrill Joan Gerber
A decades-long correspondence with the Italian writer Arturo Vivante covered it all: hardship, love, and the endurance of art
Where the Heart Is
A grandmother’s life in five moves, from Hitler’s Europe to the American Midwest
The Well Curve
Harriet A. Washington
Tropical diseases are undermining intellectual development in countries with poor health care—and they’re coming here next
The Sweet Briar Opportunity
Carol T. Christ
Small colleges with too few applicants and large universities with too many should work together
Hope Is the Enemy
Caring for a patient suffering from dementia means coming to terms with the frustrating paradoxes of memory and language
The Mysteries of Attraction
Its many splendors do not only include the carnal: animate, inanimate … love it all
Capital of Willows
On a trip to North Korea, a writer remembers his troubled father, a victim of the “Forgotten War”
Test of Faith
The Roman Catholic Church may forgive us our sins—but can it be forgiven for its own?
The Examined Lie
A meditation on memory
Talk of the Town
Robert A. Gross
At the Concord Lyceum, Emerson tried out his lectures on his neighbors
Matters of Taste
A work of literature and a bottle of wine require similar skills of their respective critics
The Wandering Years
The travel journals of a literary icon making his way in the world
My Mother’s Yiddish
The music of my childhood was a language filled with endearments and rebukes, and frequent misunderstandings
Nabokov's profitable summer chasing butterflies and settling scores in the Utah mountains
Sarah Mansfield Taber
A spy’s daughter remembers the haunting unreality of embassy life in South Vietnam before the fall
How to Write a Memoir
Be yourself, speak freely, and think small
The Embattled First Amendment
The Supreme Court is interpreting free speech in new ways that threaten our democracy
A Terrible Loss
Jonathan W. White
Lincoln’s assassination 150 years ago turned plans for postwar reconciliation to a frenzy of violence
Kill the Creature
In search of snakes—and the balm of charity and love in a world of infinitely lonely space
Confessing and Confiding
Emily Fox Gordon
Knowing the difference between the two can elevate an essay from therapy to art
Failure to Heal
Today’s medical industry thrives on diagnosing and curing, but it doesn’t reach the soul
Meeting the Mystics
My California encounters with Gerald Heard and Aldous Huxley
School Reform Fails the Test
How can our schools get better when we’ve made our teachers the problem and not the solution?
Habits of Mind
Anthony Grafton and James Grossman
Why college students who do serious historical research become independent, analytical thinkers
What I Have Taught—and Learned
William M. Chace
After 50 years as a professor, I understand that my job is to make students think hard about thinking
As the forest reclaims large stretches of New Hampshire, animals come and go, as do memories of a beloved 19th-century farmhouse
For Better and for Worse
The aftermath of a disorienting divorce
How an American sergeant’s journey through frigid North Russia inspired a work of historical fiction
As the economy gets ever better at satisfying our immediate, self-serving needs, who is minding the future?
Why Science Is Not Enough
Only through our imagination can we know the world
Delusions can occur in perfectly “normal” people
A family escaped the Nazis in 1939, finding refuge in America, but its hardships were far from over
A South African family of privilege kept its secrets
A Tale of War and Forgetting
Rescuing the memory of a cataclysm
The Fear Factor
Long-held predictions of economic chaos as baby boomers grow old are based on formulas that are just plain wrong
4 Popes, 4 Saints, One New Guy
Ingrid D. Rowland
Perhaps you’ve heard the news from Rome. But what does it really have to do with the man from Assisi?
An agnostic sermon
When the Bachelor Girl and the Red Death come calling, are they mirrors for our eccentricities?
Proust Goes to the Country Club
At a largely forgettable class reunion, remembrances of things past
A Prophet Without Honor
There’s no authoritative biography yet for Joseph Smith, the notorious founding figure in Mormonism
Loving Animals to Death
How can we raise them humanely and then butcher them?
What Killed My Sister?
The answer—schizophrenia—only leads to more perplexing questions
We value our solitude until it pinches
The Making of PoBiz Farm
After it became our permanent home, we overfilled it with overloved horses and dogs
The Presence of Absence
Our losses give vitality to our lives
A Whole Day Nearer Now
But all life’s passion not quite spent
Where Are the People?
Evangelical Christianity in America is losing its power—what happened to Orange County’s Crystal Cathedral shows why
My Kingdom for a Wave
If your life as a public intellectual takes you to the highest crests, be prepared for the troughs that follow
My Friend Melanie Has Breast Cancer
Anna Blackmon Moore
How it might have happened, and why we are looking in the wrong places to prevent similar cases
Homeless in the City
A writer describes the decade he has spent living on the streets
Our Farm, My Inspiration
How a weekend getaway became a poet’s muse
My many mentors at Oxford, from Lincoln College to All Souls, linger like spirits in the mind
Emily Fox Gordon
After the excesses of youth and terrors of middle age, a writer faces the contingencies of being old
Driving through postwar Yugoslavia was nearly impossible, but a young poet and his new wife struggled through the desolate landscape to Athens
With purple prose and oversaturated images, National Geographic reimagined postwar America as a dreamspace of hope and fascination
The intimacies shared with our closest companions keep us anchored, vital, and alive
Mortify Our Wolves
The struggle back to life and faith in the face of pain and the certainty of death
Brian Doyle, who died on May 27, considers the capacity of the heart—including his own. Rest in peace.
Rites of Passage
When a quirky old man who lived on the Cape died, I thought I didn’t care
The Complete Zinsser on Friday
Congratulations to William Zinsser, winner of the 2012 National Magazine Award in the category of Digital Commentary
William M. Chace
Opposition to affirmative action has drastically reduced minority enrollment at public universities; private institutions have the power and the responsibility to reverse the trend
A Jew in the Northwest
Exile, ethnicity, and the search for the perfect futon
Dubya and Me
Over the course of a quarter-century, a journalist witnessed the transformation of George W. Bush
LBJ’s Wild Ride
Ernest B. Furgurson
Hanging on for dear life during the 1960 campaign
Vladimir Nabokov's understanding of human nature anticipated the advances in psychology since his day
When I was stabbed 17 years ago in a New Haven coffee shop, the wounds did not only come from the knife
A Mother’s Secret
The images in a treasured photo album preserve an idealized past, while leaving out the painful story of a family torn apart by the Holocaust
Making Sparks Fly
How occupational education can lead to a love of learning for its own sake
In the Orbit of Copernicus
A discovery of the great astronomer's bones, and their reburial in Poland
Plunging to Earth
Once the sport of daredevils, skydiving now offers it existential thrills to grandmothers, pudgy geeks, and even the occasional college professor
The Forgotten Churchill
The man who stared down Hitler also helped create the modern welfare state
Plucked from the Grave
The first female missionary to cross the Continental Divide came to a gruesome end partly caused by her own zeal. What can we learn from her?
Civil Warfare in the Streets
After Fort Sumter, German immigrants in St. Louis flocked to the Union cause and in bloody confrontations overthrew the local secessionists
How Longfellow Woke the Dead
When first published 150 years ago, his famous poem about Paul Revere was read as a bold statement of his opposition to slavery
Interview with a Neandertal
What I always wanted to ask our distant cousins about love and death and sorrow and dinner
‘I Tried to Stop the Bloody Thing’
In World War I, nearly as many British men refused the draft—20,000—as were killed on the Somme's first day. Why were those who fought for peace forgotten?
The View from 90
Even when those in my generation have reached a state of serenity, wisdom, and relative comfort, what we face can hardly be called the golden years
Baseball’s Loss of Innocence
When the 1919 Black Sox scandal shattered Ring Lardner’s reverence for the game, the great sportswriter took a permanent walk
Unauthorized, But Not Untrue
The real story of a biographer in a celebrity culture of public denials, media timidity, and legal threats
Empathy and Other Mysteries
Neuroscientists are discovering things about the brain that answer questions philosophers have been asking for centuries
To Accept What Cannot Be Helped
At 80, a woman with a fatal disease knows she doesn't want to die in the hospital and discovers, with her family, what that really means
Paula Marantz Cohen
After years of favoring the endurance-test approach to teaching literature, a professor focuses on how to make books spark to life for her students
The Passionate Encounter
A noted midcentury critic has much to say in his journal about his fellow writers and the literary world they shared
Restoration of Rome Open city, the director’s masterpiece, prompts a look at why he later retreated from the neorealism it introduced
Prozac for the Planet
Can geoengineering make the climate happy?
Every Last One
A guy with a weakness for demography goes door to door for the census and discovers what a democracy is made of
"Deep Travel" opens our minds to the rich possibilities of ordinary experience
When a tornado tears through a beloved landscape, is it possible to just let nature heal itself?
We’ll Always Have McSorley’s
How Joseph Mitchell's wonderful saloon became a sacred site for a certain literary pilgrim
What the Earth Knows
Robert B. Laughlin
Understanding the concept of geologic time and some basic science can give a new perspective on climate change and the energy future
All Style, No Substance
What’s wrong with the State Department’s public diplomacy effort
Too Bad Not to Fail
William J. Quirk
Just what are derivatives, and how much more damage can they do?
Voices of a Nation
In the 19th century, American writers struggled to discover who they were and who we are
Hive of Nerves
To be alive spiritually is to feel the ultimate anxiety of existence within the trivial anxieties of everyday life
The Bearable Lightness of Being
If you live long enough and contentedly enough in exile, your feelings of estrangement can evolve into a sense of living two lives at once
Solitude and Leadership
If you want others to follow, learn to be alone with your thoughts
Reading in a Digital Age
Notes on why the novel and the Internet are opposites, and why the latter both undermines the former and makes it more necessary
Nabokov Lives On
Why his unfinished novel, Laura, deserved to be published; what’s left in the voluminous archive of his unpublished work
They Get to Me
A young psycholinguist confesses her strong attraction to pronouns
When the Light Goes On
How a great teacher can bring a receptive mind to life
To Die of Having Lived
A neurological surgeon reflects on what patients and their families should and should not do when the end draws near
My Brain on My Mind
The ABCs of the thrumming, plastic mystery that allows us to think, feel, and remember
The Stolen Election
An expatriate Iranian writer travels her troubled homeland in the weeks after a disputed presidential vote
Seventy Years Later
The Second World War destroyed Adolf Hitler, but his legacy is showing disturbing signs of life
The physics and poetics of the search for the God particle
Wrestling with Two Behemoths
A longtime New Yorker, and New Yorker writer, gets the cold shoulder from powerful New York cultural institutions
Writing About Writers
Covering the book beat
The Doctor Is IN
Daniel B. Smith
At 88, Aaron Beck is now revered for an approach to psychotherapy that pushed Freudian analysis aside
A Mindful Beauty
Joel E. Cohen
What poetry and applied mathematics have in common
The Renaissance writers and humanists Petrarch and Boccaccio turned to geography to understand the works of antiquity
A daughter examines a life played out in romantic defiance of bad fortune
Not Ready for Mt. Rushmore
Reconciling the myth of Ronald Reagan with the reality
A blast in Baghdad tests the endurance of a soldier and his family
The Devil You Know
John B. Renehan
Keeping the peace in Ramadi calls for a little moral dexterity
Questioning assumptions about intelligence, work, and social class
What I'd really like to tell the bores in my life
A writer in Quebec finds that language creates an unbridgeable divide
Any Way You Slice It
Sundays at the community oven aren't just about the pizza
He bet cautiously at the track, but elsewhere he was drawn to those with the odds stacked against them
The Terminator Comes to Wall Street
How computer modeling worsened the financial crisis and what we ought to do about it
Evolution does not rob life of meaning, but creates meaning. It also makes possible our own capacity for creativity.
Second Chances, Social Forgiveness, and the Internet
We need the means, both technological and legal, to replace measures once woven into the fabric of communities
The Potency of Breathless
Paula Marantz Cohen
At 50, Godard’s film still asks how something this bad can be so good
The Man Who Shot the Man Who Shot Lincoln
Ernest B. Furgurson
The hatter Boston Corbett was celebrated as a hero for killing John Wilkes Booth. Fame and fortune did not follow, but madness did.
Visions and Revisions
Writing On Writing Well and keeping it up-to-date for 35 years
Dawn of a Literary Friendship
In 1969 the writer Robert Phelps first wrote to the novelist James Salter. Here are the letters that forged a bond of two decades.
The Dowser Dilemma
How a town in Vermont found water it desperately needed and an explanation that was harder to swallow
Putting Man Before Descartes
Human knowledge is personal and participant—placing us at the center of the universe
The Future of the American Frontier
Can one of our most enduring national myths, much in evidence in the recent presidential campaign, be reinvented yet again?
Affirmative Action and After
W. Ralph Eubanks
Now is the time to reconsider a policy that must eventually change. But simply replacing race with class isn’t the solution.
Spies Among Us
Military snooping on civilians, which escalated in the turbulent '60s, never entirely went away and is back again on a much larger scale
A Country for Old Men
Having reached the shores of seniority himself, the author finds a surprising contentment in the eyes of his fellow retirees
The Civil War only enhanced George Whitman's soldierly satisfaction; for his brother Walt, however, the horrors halted an outpouring of great poetry
My Bright Abyss
I never felt the pain of unbelief until I believed. But belief itself is hardly painless.
The High Road to Narnia
C. S. Lewis and his friend J. R. R. Tolkien believed that truths are universal and that stories reveal them
The Censor in the Mirror
It’s not only what the Chinese Propaganda Department does to artists, but what it makes artists do to their own work
The Torture Colony
In a remote part of Chile, an evil German evangelist built a utopia whose members helped the Pinochet regime perform its foulest deeds
Where Does American History Begin?
Mixing geography with invention, the first explorers and mapmakers made the New World a very hard place to pin down
Something Called Terrorism
In a speech given at Harvard 22 years ago and never before published, Leonard Bernstein offered a warning that remains timely
The New Old Way of Learning Languages
Now all but vanished, a once-popular system of reading Greek and Latin classics could revitalize modern teaching methods
The Disadvantages of an Elite Education
Our best universities have forgotten that the reason they exist is to make minds, not careers
The End of the Black American Narrative
A new century calls for new stories grounded in the present, leaving behind the painful history of slavery and its consequences
Revisiting the gritty Roman neighborhood of his youth, a writer discovers a world of his own invention
Knitting a new life in America after a mother’s suicide, long ago in Japan
When George Plimpton, the boyish editor of The Paris Review, went three rounds with the light-heavyweight champion of the world
In literature, as in life, the art of swimming isn’t hard to master
The Broken Balance
The poet Robinson Jeffers warned us nearly a century ago of the ravages to nature we now face
Passing the Torch
Stephen J. Pyne
Why the eons-old truce between humans and fire has burst into an age of megafires, and what can be done about it
The Liberal Imagination of Frederick Douglass
Honoring the emotions that give life to liberal principles
What Kind of Father Am I?
Looking back at a lifetime of parenting sons and being parented by them
Rome’s Gossip Columnist
When the first-century poet Martial turned his stylus on you, you got the point
Janna Malamud Smith
Like Robinson Crusoe after the storm, a daughter salvages what she can after her mother’s death
A Slow Devouring
Banter, beer, and bar food smooth a disciplined but difficult passage through Finnegans Wake
Who Cares About Executive Supremacy?
The scope of presidential power is the most urgent and the most ignored legal and political issue of our time
Moral Principle vs. Military Necessity
The first code of conduct during warfare, created by a Civil War–era Prussian immigrant, reflected ambiguities we struggle with to this day
Dreaming of a Democratic Russia
Sarah E. Mendelson
Memories of a year in Moscow promoting a post-Soviet political process, an undertaking that now seems futile
The Daily Miracle
Life with the mavericks and oddballs at the Herald Tribune
By limiting freedom of expression, we take away thoughts and ideas before they have the opportunity to hatch
Alone at the Movies
My days in the dark with Robert Altman and Woody Allen
Ann Hagman Cardinal
A young woman wins a drawing and learns to give and to receive
As a beloved uncle makes his final journey in the wilderness, a new life begins
The Cradle of Modernism
From the Autumn 1990 issue of The Scholar
Findings: Meditations on the Literature of Spying
From the Spring 1965 issue of The Scholar
To the Rescue of Romanticism
From the Spring 1940 issue of The Scholar
Melvin Jules Bukiet
Come with us to a place called Brooklyn, where the stories are half-baked and their endings bland and soft
Religious groups that have allied themselves with politicians, and vice versa, have ignored at their peril the lessons of Roger Williams and U.S. history
The Trojan War
Now even some environmentalists are supporting the use of nuclear power to generate electricity. One man’s story suggests the industry can’t be trusted
How a precocious group of high school poets learned to provide verse on demand
Lady of the Lake
Writer Brenda Ueland and the story she never shared
Apologies All Around
Today's tendency to make amends for the crimes of history raises the question: where do we stop?
From the Spring 1976 issue of The Scholar
The Mystery of Ales
Kai Bird and Svetlana Chervonnaya
The argument that Alger Hiss was a WWII-era Soviet asset is flawed. New evidence points to someone else
The Mystery of Ales (Expanded Version)
Kai Bird and Svetlana Chervonnaya
The argument that Alger Hiss was a WWII-era Soviet asset is flawed. New evidence points to someone else
Love on Campus
Why we should understand, and even encourage, a certain sort of erotic intensity between student and professor
What diplomacy can do and why we need it more than ever
Gazing Into the Abyss
The sudden appearance of love and the galvanizing prospect of death lead a young poet back to poetry and a “hope toward God”
‘Mem, Mem, Mem’
After a stroke, a prolific novelist struggles to say how the mental world of aphasia looks and feels
Between Two Worlds
The familar story of Pocahontas was mirrored by that of a young Englishman given as a hostage to her father
The Invasion of Privacy
Richard H. Rovere
From the Autumn 1958 issue of The Scholar
A New Theory of the Universe
Biocentrism builds on quantum physics by putting life into the equation
Can we begin to think about unexplained religious experiences in ways that acknowledge their existence?
In Pursuit of Innocence
From the Spring 1953 issue of The Scholar
The Judge's Jokes
Shards of memory, for better or for worse, from my father the after-banquet speaker
The celebrated Austrian writer Peter Handke appeared at the funeral of Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic. Should we forgive him?
The Cook's Son
The death of a young man, long ago in Africa, continues to raise questions with no answers
One Day in the Life of Melvin Jules Bukiet
Melvin Jules Bukiet
A Manhattan writer runs afoul of the local penal system and lives to tell the tale
Findings: Privacy Revealed
Richard E. Nicholls
From the Archives
First we stopped noticing members of the working class, and now we're convinced they don’t exist
THE SCHOLAR AT 75: An Educated Guess
Who knew that mixing the intelligent and the idiosyncratic would yield a long life for a certain small quarterly?
Not Compassionate, Not Conservative
A political traditionalist critiques our pseudo-conservative president
Scooter and Me
Professing liberal doubt in an age of fundamentalist fervor
Fear of Falling
Working in the mop-and-bucket brigade in college created the perspectives of a lifetime
The posthumous masterwork of an influential black historian tells how slavery itself undermined the Confederacy
Can a friendship really end for no good reason?
Getting It All Wrong
The proponents of Theory and Cultural Critique could learn a thing or two from bioculture
Lincoln the Persuader
Douglas L. Wilson
Seeking to get people behind his policies, he made himself the best writer for all our presidents
My Mother’s Body
Just remembering her is not enough; resurrecting her is the ultimate goal
Tomorrow Is Another Day
An Ethiopian student survives a brutal imprisonment by translating Gone with the Wind into his native tongue
The Ordinariness of AIDS
Can a disease that tells us so much about ourselves ever be anything but extraordinary?
The Sack of Baghdad
The U.S. invasion of Iraq has turned cultural icons into loot and archaeological sites into ruins
Miles from Nowhere
On a return trip to the wilderness of British Columbia, the author revisits a rough and exquisite landscape
Rum and Coca-Cola
The murky derivations of a sweet drink and a sassy World War II song
The Embarrassment of Riches
Do not pity me for having more money than anyone I know. Still, wealth does have its mild difficulties
The Case for Love
Did the friendship of an early Supreme Court justice and the wife of a colleague ever cross the line of propriety?
Leaving Race Behind
Our growing Hispanic population creates a golden opportunity
On the Outside Looking In
Paris and its banlieues in November 2005
Onward, Christian Liberals
Christianity's long tradition of social injustice
What Jesus Did
Forget about Christ as secular sage, historical figure, or even as Christian
Two Strangers, Three Stories
All the lonely people and where they come from
Shouldn’t There Be a Word ... ?
The holes in our language and the never-ending search for words to fill them
The Idea of Bombay
Bollywood epitomized modernity for a boy in a distant province. As an adult, he sees a troubled city.
Henry James vs. the Robber Barons
Why Italian art should stay in England, where it belongs, and not fall into the hands of foreigners
The New Anti-Semitism
First religion, then race, then what?
My Holocaust Problem
If we cannot speak of it—though speak of it we must—how do we remember what happened to the Jews of Europe?
Palladio in the Rough
A South Carolinian builds classical revival houses that really look old
A Sunday-afternoon player of a certain age says his farewell to basketball
The ebb and flow of life in a Newfoundland fishing village
Buster Brown's America
How a Jew from Slovakia became a Catholic from Manhattan, then fell from grace and turned into a real American
A Visit to Esperantoland
The natives want you to learn their invented language as a step toward world harmony. Who are these people?
Teaching the N-Word
A black professor, an all-white class, and the thing nobody will say
The Rise and Fall of David Duke
Lawrence N. Powell
Breaking the code of right-wing populism in Louisana
Finding the ideal of freedom in a rugged prison colony
Custom and Law
Melvin Jules Bukiet
After the death of his father, a not-notably observant Jew turns to the mourning rituals of his faith
Mary Beth Saffo
How chance authors the universe
Twenty-three ways of looking at our ancestors
Roosevelt Redux: Part Two
Thomas N. Bethell
Robert M. Ball and the battle for Social Security
Buy a house in Maine and they will come. And come.
Thomas N. Bethell
Robert M. Ball and the battle for Social Security
The elderly are entitled to what they have earned
All About Eve
What men have thought about women thinking
A Long Cold View of History
How ice, worms, and dirt made us what we are today
The Big Roundup
John Lomax roamed the West, collecting classic songs from the cowboy era
The Glue Is Gone
The things that held us together as individuals and as a people are being lost. Can we find them again?
So Help Me God
What all fifty-four inaugural addresses, taken as one long book, tell us about American history
What We Got Wrong
How Arabs look at the self, their society, and their political institutions
The Coming of the French
My life as an English professor
The Software Wars
Paul De Palma
Why you can't understand your computer
The Crooner and the Physicist
Jacques Brel and The New Yorker profile that never reached critical mass
A Sturdy Man
Notes on a human symphony
SAMPLE RESPONSE PAPERS
Below is a collection of strong (and exceptionally strong) response papers from students.All received high grades.They are good examples of insightful thinking and strong writing.I would especially encourage you to notice that most of them don’t have obvious organization; most of them let their ideas develop and wander.Many of the best responses are later in the list.I continue to add to this collection as I find new examples of strong writing.As always, I will look at drafts when I can.[Please Note: Responses here are single-spaced to be read quicker.]
The first example, however, is one I wrote as a sample for the first reading response.
Of all of the common assumptions that we discussed in class, I think one of the most common is the idea that a children’s text should in some way teach the reader something.We of course talked about the term didactic, and how a didactic book strongly pushes a lesson onto the reader, telling them that they should believe this or that.Many times a reason for that lesson isn’t even given, as though the young person reading the book should just accept that lesson because they are told to, because the other knows better.As I was reading Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss, the book I selected for the assignment, I was hoping that it wouldn’t be as didactic as most other children’s books, and that it would be as playful and exciting as I remember as a child.On the last two pages of the book, however, the absent mother returns home, the cat has disappeared, the children are behaving nicely, sitting in chairs, and it is pretty obvious that even though they got into mischief they are still good children after all.Nothing really has changed at the end of the book.Although all sorts of things got played with, and the children broke the rules I am sure they know about (like, “Don’t fly kites in the house”), major boundaries were never crossed.
We talked about how the opposite of a didactic book might be an ambiguous book, or a book that encourages the reader to think about issues, to make decisions for themselves.In that kind of book, the author usually wants to the reader to think for her or himself, to understand that some things are difficult, even for adults.The author may present a problem and ask you what you think, or might just never come around to saying exactly what you are supposed to believe.The last page of Cat in the Hat ends with the narrator saying, referring to the mother, “Should we tell her about it? / Now what SHOULD we do? / Well . . . / What would YOU do / If your mother asked you?” (61).In some ways, this is probably a pretty ambiguous ending.The author asks the reader that if your mother left, if someone wanted you to do what you weren’t supposed to, if you did it anyway, and if you didn’t get caught, then would you tell your mother or father what happened?Most adults wouldn’t tell what happened themselves, but the question is there anyway, and it seems to be really asking children what they believe.
But it doesn’t seem really that ambiguous.If the book were really ambiguous it would be breaking the Typical Case Prototype of children’s books, and in almost every other way the book keeps to those prototypes.As Nodelman describes it, children’s books are typically bright, colorful, funny, entertaining, and maybe sometimes rhyming.Children’s books portray children as the way adults typically think of them, as crazy kids who aren’t serious like adults, or innocent angels who would never really do any harm when they play.Dr. Suess portrays typical kids, bored by the rain, wanting to do something wild.Although Seuss’s style is strange, the children even look like the sort of standard white children that appear in most books, the girl in a dress and ribbon in her hair.We saw in class how these children are a lot like the standard one’s in Cassie’s history textbookAnd although strange things happen in the book – a talking cat, a couple of strange Things, a lot of things getting thrown around – it is the kind of play we come to expect in children’s lives, especially in the sorts of standard things shown on television and in movies.
In fact, the children never quite seem to trust the Cat, and they always just sort of watch him play.The children never really do anything that crazy themselves.The Fish, who sounds a lot like an adult, is always there to warn them, and in the end everything gets cleaned up.Of course the book is fun and playful, and is obviously one of the most famous and liked picture books ever made, but it is still pretty straightforward.Cat in the Hat reinforces and demonstrates almost all of the typical assumptions about childhood, and it fulfills all of the typical case prototypes of children’s books.Examining it made me think about how the book might have changed in recent years, especially since children are rarely bored when they are at home any more (with all of the stuff they own to play with).But more than that, it made me think about why we expect all children’s books to be like this, why it is always considered one of the best books for children.Although I like typical children’s books, it makes me also interested in books that don’t do what we expect.The book was written 1957, and in so many ways children’s books have become so incredibly different since then.But in a lot of other ways, some good, some bad, they haven’t changed at all.
STRONG EXAMPLES FROM STUDENTS
The book George and Martha (as well as all of the other books in the series), by James , is in most ways a typical case prototype.The reading level that is assigned to the book is for ages four through eight.Each book is divided into five stories, and the stories are about two hippopotamuses that are best friends and act like humans.Each of the stories starts with a title page that has bold yellow bubble letters.As the pages are turned the left hand page has the print for the story and the right hand page has the illustration for that portion of the story.This is very much typical case prototype—very consistent, very simple in both a visual and a reading sense.And each story is short in length endorsing the idea that children get bored easily.
All of the illustrations are simple—basically white backgrounds with bold black outlines and three or four colors used to emphasize certain parts of the images (namely grey, green, yellow, and red).The pictures tell the story of everything that is going on, which makes it more or less unnecessary for a child to be able to read in order to understand what is going on in the story.In fact, the pictures include almost no object in that is not directly involved in the story, meaning there is nothing used in the background of the pictures to fill the space.
The story is as simple as the illustrations using little or no complex language or difficult vocabulary.The story, however, is not told using rhyming endings or any kind of rhythm in the sentence structure, which is less typical case prototype, even though plenty of children’s literature does not utilize rhythm or rhyme.The story also includes only two characters (save the image of the dentist in the last story).There are no other characters introduced which also keeps the story simplified.
George and Martha supports many of the assumptions posed with typical case prototypes; in some cases the story even supports two opposing assumptions about children.The assumption that children like books about fantasy is supported in that the main characters are animals that have the characteristics of humans—they are hippopotamuses walking around on two feet, wearing clothes, and talking to each other.At the same time, the assumption is made that kids are so egocentric they only like literature to which they can personally relate.While the main characters are animals, everything else about the book is based very much in a reality they can understand.George and Martha live in a world like ours, where everyone lives in houses, cooks meals, takes baths and goes to the dentist.The issues brought up in the book are even those to which children could relate, such as: not liking split pea soup but having to eat it, losing something that is dear to you, irritating habits that friends have, or invasion of privacy.These are all concepts that a child can understand, and therefore it fits this typical case prototype as well.
The book is extremely didactic.Each story ends with the moral that is presented in it, and the morals are very plainly stated in no uncertain terms.There is no real room for coming up with one’s own ideas or opinions on how the presented situation should be dealt with, because the answer is given—the writer’s view of the issue at hand is almost shoved in the face of the reader.In some ways, a child who thinks beyond simply what the book is telling him/her, might look at what takes place and determine how he/she might have dealt with that situation, but so many people treat reading as such a passive activity that they simply would not occur to them to look any farther than what is directly presented.
Though the book seems so simple at first glance, it might also be argued that the book brings up more adult issues in the sense of right and wrong, such as in the story in which George is peeking through Martha’s window when she is in the bathtub.Now, on the surface this is an issue presented and treated in that it is wrong to invade one’s privacy, but looking at it more deeply might be suggesting peeping-toms and a much more sexual elements of invading privacy than is obvious at first, and that is certainly not a typical case prototype.Nor is the response that Martha has when she realizes that George is peeking in her window, which is to dump the bathtub on his head and yell at him; that could be construed as a violent reaction.The story of the mirror brings up the issue of vanity or even pride.George deals with Martha’s pride in her own appearance by pasting a funny picture on her mirror to trick her into not looking at it anymore.That is a scenario that may be funny to children, but it may also be looking at the more “adult world” of the seven deadly sins for instance—pointing out the negative tendencies of the human being.
Despite these deeper rooted possibilities of what the book may be trying to convey, in most cases it would be considered a typical case prototype.It is built around most of the assumptions made about kids and their views of literature and of the world.Only when looked at closely does this book show any evidence of underlying meaning or issues being presented, and those clues may be simply a complete coincidence.
Nodelman discusses the Typical Case Prototype portrayed in adult-written children’s books.Nodelman’s stereotypes include bright colors, fantasy, common childhood experiences, and simple linguistics.Richard Scarry’s picture book, THINGS TO KNOW demonstrates all of these qualities producing a didactic anecdote.
Color radiates from the pages of this short story.From the pink background on the front cover to the bright blue costume worn by an elephant on the title page, the book is filled with bright shades.The use of color culminates to the very last page, which exemplifies and identifies the colors used in the book (23).The book ambiguously teaches correct color schemes by ensuring each object is the color found in nature.For example, in the “Seasons” grass is green, the sky is blue, sand is brown, apples are red, pumpkins are orange, and snow is white; the author easily could have painted these objects in hues of imagination, however the writer chose to demonstrate these objects in their naturally expected forms, encouraging standard ideals of the world (14,16,18, 19).
While the color usage discourages imagination, Scarry’s use of fantasy promotes creative ideology.A personified animal or insect represents every character in the book.Animals play instruments, eat with spoons, count to ten, have hands, arms, and noses, rake leaves, watch TV, write, and eat cookies (5,6,8,12,11,17, 22,9).Scarry limits the readers’ imagination, allowing only classic fantasy.Richard Scarry personifies the characters to be similar to his readers.
Nodelman’s research suggests the ideal that children enjoy characters they can relate to.Scarry creates childlike characters based on their actions.Illustrating childlike behavior, a pig spills a glass of juice, a cat wears an inner tube to swim in ankle deep water, and a worm jumps in a pile of autumn leaves (8,16,17).The children are distinguished from the adults by size, position, and in some cases clothing.On page one, a giraffe sits on a stool wearing a suit and tie reading a book to a tiny, casually dressed mouse.Of course the mouse is the childlike character and the giraffe is the adult; the giraffe know how to read, is formally dressed, and is much taller than his counterpart. This example signifies the view of adults being superior to children and being responsible for the knowledge children gain.In the manners section a tall pig wearing a dress helps a short pig in red overalls put on a rain jacket, obviously this is the mother aiding her child (10).This suggests that children require parents to guide them even in simple tasks.
Finally, the language of the book signifies children’s short attention span and the idea of reading levels.The syntax is limited to include no more than eleven words, the longest sentence being, “We rake the falling leaves and pick apples in the autumn.” (17).The vocabulary of this book is simplistic, using predominately one or two syllable words to identify objects, directions, or sizes.The book contains only two four-syllable words; accordion and interrupting (5, 8).The language is simple for young readers and the identifying nature of the book is most likely targeted toward a preschool audience.
The book overtly teaches the things adults believe small children should learn; like distinguishing the four seasons and naming body parts (13-20, 11).The most obvious example of a moralistic or instructive agenda is the section titled “Manners”.Scarry devotes four pages to “Manners”, while most other topics have two pages.Scarry clearly encourages his ideas of etiquette when he writes, “Everyone should have good manners. Do you? I hope so.” (9).Other examples of the educational goals appear in sections labeled “Count to Ten”, “Opposites”, “Shapes and Sizes”, “Things We Can Do”, and “Colors” (12, 3, 1, 21, 23).The book didactically impresses children with adult view of essential knowledge and encourages the stereotypical natures Nodelman mentioned.
In the 2003 Universal Pictures version of “Peter Pan,” the children are depicted as strong, independent individuals with their own agency throughout a great portion of the film.However, there are numerous examples of interpellation, during which the children fight against and conform to the interpellation of family and society.In the following paragraphs, I will explain how “Peter Pan” is a movie with both interpellation and agency.Also, I will explain how the film is adult-centered in spite of the agency the child characters possess.
The movie “Peter Pan” begins with three children living in a nursery all together.One day, the children overhear the adults talking about Wendy, the oldest child in the nursery.They are saying that it is time for her to grow up and spend more time with adults.Wendy does not like the idea of growing up, and the children go on a magical adventure where children never grow up, where there are pirates, fairies, and countless adventures.However, soon Wendy realizes that she truly does wish to grow up and decides to return to her home with her parents.In the end, Wendy, her brothers, and the lost boys all end up home with parents.However, Peter Pan still refuses to give up his childhood fantasies and flies away forever.
The adult characters in “Peter Pan” are highly interpellated into their roles in society.For example, the mother and father are wealthy socialites who attend grand parties, wear grand clothing, and (attempt to) conduct themselves in a dignified, proper manner.At one point, the father is seen practicing his small talk because Aunt Millicent has told him that “wit is very fashionable at the moment.”They are very much concerned with what the neighbors will think of them and their proper place in society.Wendy’s adult family has been interpellated into their roles in society.However, the children are still concerned with fun, games, and adventures.The thought of growing up is not an appealing one for them at this point.It simply does not look like it is any fun.
In one scene, the entire family is gathered together in a family room.The children are telling stories and being generally silly.When Wendy begins to talk of her dreams of adventure, her Aunt Millicent puts a stop to it.After all, a young lady should not think of adventure, but marriage according to the interpellation in this film.During this scene, Wendy talks with her Aunt Millicent about her future plans.“My unfulfilled ambition is to write a great novel, in three parts, about my adventures,” Wendy says.Aunt Millicent replies, “What adventures?”“I’m going to have them,” Wendy says, “they’ll be perfectly thrilling.”Aunt Millicent clearly indicates what role she believes Wendy should possess in society with her reply, “But child, novelists are not highly thought of in good society, and there is nothing so difficult to marry as a novelist.”In this same scene, Aunt Millicent asks Wendy to walk toward her and turn around so that she might appraise her.Afterward, she declares Wendy as having possession of a “woman’s chin” and a “hidden kiss” on the corner of her mouth.She declares the kiss as the “greatest adventure of all” and states that it “belongs to” someone else.Aunt Millicent clearly thinks that Wendy will believe that possessing woman-like qualities will make her want to act more grown up and that possessing a hidden kiss that belongs to someone else will begin Wendy’s search for a respectable husband.Aunt Millicent is attempting to convince Wendy that her proper place in society will be an adventure if only she lives up to the expectations of her family.Aunt Millicent is attempting to interpellate Wendy into a certain role.She addresses the “problems” of Wendy’s need for adventure and desire to become a novelist, neither of which will do for a young lady in high society.
By watching the whole first half of the film, one might believe that Wendy has not been interpellated into the role her Aunt Millicent wishes for her.She is clearly against the idea of giving up her adventures to become a wife.Soon after, she meets a magical boy and runs away with him, along with her brothers to a world where children have their own agency.In Neverland, children live with no parents, do as they please, and fight their own battles.There are Indians, mermaids, and pirates.It is a great adventurous place for children to live when they do not wish to be interpellated into a role in society by their parents.
During one Neverland scene, Hook has captured Wendy’s brothers and taken them to the .There, the adult pirates treat the children as worthy adversaries.This indicates that the adult pirates believe that the children do, indeed, have their own agency.The pirates do not indicate for a moment that these are only children and easily defeated.Rather, they wait in ambush for Peter Pan and Wendy to attempt to rescue the boys.Wendy shows Peter that she is entirely capable of brandishing a sword against the pirates.Here, Wendy is displaying her own agency and letting him know that she will not need protection any more than the boys.Then, Peter tricks the pirates into releasing the other children.This shows that the children in the scene are much more cleaver than the adults.Afterward, a great fight scene ensues between the children and the pirates.The pirates sword fight with them as if they were adults.In fact, the children manage to defeat the pirates and escape unharmed, once again indicating that they have their own agency in that they are clever and able to take care of themselves.When there is a problem, they figure out a way to get out of it on their own.They do not rely on adults to solve their problems.
In spite of all of the agency the children display during the Neverland scenes, I would argue that this film is adult centered.After being in the Neverland for a while, Wendy realizes that she does not belong there and chooses to return to the safety of her family.Even the Lost Boys desperately want a parental figure in their lives, and they end up returning home with Wendy and her brothers to live with their parents.Wendy has been interpellated by her parents after all.She realizes that she wants her life that she left behind.The power that Wendy felt at the beginning of the film seemed repressive to her; however, it has become ideological.In other words, the ideological power that Wendy’s family has over her has worked.She now sees that her happiness lies in the role that her family has been trying to establish for her.Furthermore, Wendy’s brothers and the Lost Boys all realize that they want to have parents who will care for them and that growing up is not all that bad.In the end, all of the children have parents except one.And, all of the children seem happy except one – Peter Pan.
While it is odd to think of a film having both interpellation and agency, I am suggesting just that.However, I am also suggesting that there are two separate worlds in this film in which the two issues occur.Interpellation clearly occurs in the beginning of the film while the children are with their parents and Aunt Millicent.They are taught how life should be and who they should be when they grow up.The Neverland world is a place where children have agency.It is clear to the adults and children in Neverland that children are to be taken seriously and treated as equals.However, in the end, the children choose interpellation over agency and return to the nursery and their home with their parents.In this film, the children have been interpellated to believe that their role at home will be much more fulfilling and rewarding than the agency available to them by remaining children forever in Neverland.
In closing, Peter Pan is a complicated film that displays agency and interpellation.While it displays both, the film is adult centered, as the children end up interpellated into the roles their families wished for them.
Resisting Interpellation: Beauty and the Beast
As a little girl, I pretended I was Belle from Beauty and the Beast. I wanted desperately to find my prince charming. I danced around to the songs, and I would have loved a castle filled with enchanted creatures, or a library filled with books up to the ceiling. Years later, after watching the same story unfold, I can honestly say that Belle could be a role model for me in the way she lived her life. Her personality is one of strength, open-mindedness, and abundant love. Throughout her story, Belle is faced with opposition and obstacles that push her to define and think about who she is. Gaston and the rest of the townspeople try to push and mold Belle into the type of person that they feel is “normal.” The story of Beauty and the Beast is one of Belle defying the idea of what is normal, what is right, and what is supposed to be.
A major way of society interpellating a person is by shunning the marriage or union between people with huge differences. Society applauds when the normal path is taken, whether it is a marriage between a man and woman, or the relationship between two people of the same race. The main motif or theme of Beauty and the Beast, which occurs in many children’s stories, is that of two people of different species falling in love and overcoming their obstacles. Belle, a human, and the Beast, a human enslaved in a beast-like body, are blinded to reality by their love. They do not look at each other with eyes focused on appearances, but look through the skin into each other’s souls. In the garden playing with birds, the Beast and Belle come to realize that they care for each other, despite the hesitations that first accompanied their situation. The beast is surprised that “when we touched she didn't shudder at my paw,” and Belle is taken aback “ that he's no Prince Charming but there's something in him that I simply didn't see.” Though surprised, Belle resisted the temptation to fall in love and marry a human, thus not giving in to interpellation. This movie also expresses distaste for interpellation in the sense that it expresses the acceptance of things not of the norm. It basically says that you do not have to settle for the town football hero, just because you are the cheerleader. Instead, you can hold out, find a person with whom your souls connect, and live happily ever after. There is also a trace of the “if you truly love them, let them go, and if they love you too, they will come back” theme present in this movie. For example, when the Beast releases Belle as his prisoner, he gives her the freedom to truly love him. It is only through this relinquishing, that Belle can understand her true feelings.
A different way society tries to interpellate a person or a person’s life is by giving them a name. By naming a person, the parent is predetermining their child to answer and identify with that name. The name Belle translates to beautiful or beauty from the French language. Yet while Belle is beautiful, she does not let her name, or it’s meaning, get in the way of her personality. Traditionally, an interpellated “Belle” would be flirtatious, using her good looks to gain social standing. This type of behavior would be accepted in Belle’s community, as other seemingly beautiful women gush and moon over Gaston, throwing themselves at him in the hopes he will throw them a bone. though, almost seems unaware of her good looks. For example, while Belle walks through town, her head buried in a story, she is oblivious to all the commotion she is bringing about. One man even goes as far as to say, “Now it's no wonder that her name means 'beauty' Her looks have got no parallel!” As the story unfolds, she does not dress to impress anyone, and never gives the impression of caring what others think of her appearance. I believe the rose in Beauty and the Beast is a reminder of Belle’s inconsistence with the typical towns lady. The rose, while beautiful and seemingly fragile, has managed to live for ten years. While it is enchanted, the rose must still be protected, and is held in high regard. Belle, similarly, is beautiful and dainty, but strong. She earns respect through her decisions, and does not need to be taken care of. She is strong enough to find her father, strong enough to give her life for his, and strong enough to stand up to the Beast.
Belle also questions the interpellated messages she receives from the general public. The people of Belle’s town believe that, as a young lady, you should live up to specific social standards. Belle breaks these traditions in numerous ways. To begin, even as Belle walks through the “quiet village,” the townspeople talk about how she is so strange and unusual; how she does not quite fit the mold. They shake their heads and cannot understand why she is “Never part of any crowd.” She “doesn't quite fit in” with the ladies trying to find a husband, or with the ladies who sit around doing what it is the conventional ladies do. Instead, she is described as “Dazed and distracted” because she always has “her nose stuck in a book!” It is evident that Belle is resisting interpellation by continuing to read, and to read often. Instead of succumbing to the ideals and values of the townspeople who feel “It's not right for a woman to read--soon she starts getting ideas...and thinking,” she relishes her stories, and continues to be excited about new possibilities. She also does not try to hide the fact that she loves to read. She sat on a fountain, in the middle of the town, and sang about her love of books. People like Gaston, who try to force their ideas on society, feel that all a woman should be is a “little wife, massaging [her husband’s] feet, while the little ones play with the dogs.” When Belle flat out refuses Gaston’s attempts at wooing her, the other ladies of the town, who have fallen into the common way of thinking, say, “What's wrong with her?” Yet Belle knows that “There must be more than this provincial life!”
Indeed, there is a different way to live life, at least for Belle. Unlike many women, Belle is not one to be influenced by appearances, good or bad. She is not impressed with Gaston’s impressive looks or rippled muscles (because he is, after all, “Perfect, a pure paragon”). Instead of dreaming about being Gaston’s wife, Belle is more interested in enjoying life, taking care of her father, and being true to herself. She does not fall into the trap of liking the cool guy, just because everyone else does. She knows that Gaston is “handsome all right, and rude and conceited and” not for her. Another example of Belle’s passiveness towards appearance occurs with the Beast. While her first reaction to the Beast is terror, she does not actually fear him. If she feared him, she would not have spoken out to the Beast like she did. Not intimidated by his looks, she talks to him like the mean-spirited person he is. This showcases the amount of agency Belle has determined is rightfully hers. In many instances, she does not give in to the Beast’s demands, even though, technically, she is his prisoner. For instance, she does not give in to the Beast’s demand that she come to dinner, instead, she tells him, “I'm not hungry” and refuses to eat with him.
Some may feel that Belle is the typical young lady, looking to find her prince. After all, her favorite part of the book she reads by the fountain is when the girl meets her prince, but does not know it yet. I would argue that the books she finds so intriguing are an escape. While the particular storyline read by the fountain does predict the outcome of the movie, it also illustrates and shows how Belle is feeling. She feels trapped, like the only way she can escape her suffocating world is to read about others where there is adventure and romance. She may want the romance and the white knight on the horse, but she is not willing to compromise who she is inherently, for the gain of something she does not deem true and worthy. Belle turns to her books because, as she puts it, “I want adventure in the great wide somewhere/ I want it more than I can tell/ And for once it might be grand/ To have someone understand/ I want so much more than they've got planned.” So she is not dreaming of her prince, or a life as a princess. She wants to be a person, first and foremost, and have someone understand what she feels. Before meeting and falling in love with the beast, the only “people” who understand her, are the people in the books she reads, because they have the same desires as she.
Belle avoids the interpellation of her peers and society through staying true to herself, and, in the end, she gets her prince. She does not succumb to the prodding of Gaston, and even her father in the beginning, to marry and become a mainstream household wife. Instead, she uses her ability to love truly to find the man, or beast, with which she is meant to be. It is through this rebellion of society’s norm that Belle uses her agency in life to stand firm against interpellation.
“: Bigger, Longer and Uncut” is a true depiction of carnivalesqueimagery. The entire film is centered on a movie the children go see, called “Asses of Fire.”This movie causes great controversy between the children and parents, because its only purpose is to, make fun of bodily functions, and curse as much as possible.The children in “” love this movie, and even claim that it will make their lives “complete.” The idea of carnivalesque is that is mocks and humiliates what is supposed to be official, and customary by focusing on humorous and grotesque bodily functions.These children who praise a movie that is clearly derogatory, and gross degrades the ethical teachings they should be learning.The stereotype for children is that they should learn valuable, and critical lessons that will help them in life.“” greatly destroys these lessons, as the children perpetually get more offensive and silly as the mimic the actors in “Asses of Fire.”
The movie also demeans authority figures such as, the government, the president, teachers, principles, parents etc.One of the best examples of this idea of carnivalesque is when Cartman defies his authority figures.While sitting in class Mr. Garrison (the boy’s teacher) demands Cartman to answer a question.Unwilling to cooperate, Cartman instead curses at the teacher and is sent to the office.In the office, he again curses at the principle. Both authority figures are surprised by these acts of defiance; they do not know how to punish this behavior.Instead, Cartman is free to say and do what he pleases, to whomever. This scene depicts the role reversal of authority.It is Cartman who holds the power, and not the typical adult authority figure.Throughout the movie the adults struggle to gain power over their children’s tainted behavior.They are repeatedly unsuccessful.This is the essence of carnivalesque, as it uses absurdity and humor to undermine what is normally revered.
proves to be a progressive movie for a number of reasons.Although, it is seemingly playful, silly and gross, it explores new grounds by mocking norms for children’s movies.Much like a traditional Disney musical, “: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut” begins with the character Stan singing a song.In this scene, Stan is walking down a snow-covered street as he sings about his “quiet mountain town.”Deer cross his path, and beautiful Pine trees line the road.As Stan approaches his town he is singing about how wonderful it is, and how people treat each other well.However, it is obvious, that the people are actually pushy, rude and hateful towards one another.By no means is this place the “quiet mountain town” Stan describes.In fact, by the end of the song the entire town joins in on the chorus and adds that they live in a “quiet little white trash redneck mountain town.”This is an ironic twist to how the film first began.In the beginning “” seems to be a normal children’s movie.It depicts the innocence of nature, and a song about love, happiness, and people getting along. As the song continues, it drastically changes from pleasant, to disturbing and silly. People are cursing one another, babies are being thrown through windows, and homeless men are drinking on the side of the road.These images mock and criticize the normal innocence in children’s film.Therefore, with its mocking nature “” challenges what we deem as a stereotypical normal children’s film and proves to be progressive.In addition, “” is progressive as it gives power to those that would not normally have it.Kyle, Stan, Cartman and Kenny all have a great amount of power within this movie, as they defy their parents and curse at authority figures.
However, this movie also gives a great amount of power to a woman.Kyle’s mother consistently gains command as she speaks out against the two Canadian actors in “Asses of Fire” that have contaminated the children’s minds.In one seen Kyle’s mom pushes President Clinton out of the way of a camera interview and provides a speech on ending the actor’s lives to save the children. Her forceful behavior of pushing the President out of the way shows how “” truly defies the norm.In a normal situation the President would be seen as the highest authority, but here a mother from a “redneck town” is depicted as stronger. By giving power to both the children and the mother, “” is extremely progressive by challenging and defying the ideas of a stereotypical normal children’s movie.
Much like the “” movie, the TV series “Family Guy” also portrays carnivalesque imagery.One of the main characters in “Family Guy” is Stewie, a baby who has an adult British male’s accent.His hilarious, uncommon voice greatly shows carnivalesque.Unlike a normal baby, Stewie not only can speak his mind, but he also can do it articulately, like an adult.In fact, he is smarter, more talkative and wiser than the stupid immature dad, Peter, in the show.Specifically, the episode “Emission Impossible” shows how Stewie is more competent than his parents.Repeatedly, he disrupts his parents from making love in order to stop them from creating another baby. In one scene Stewie walks into his room, hits a button on the wall, which collapses and shows a hidden spaceship behind it.He uses the spaceship (which shrinks to a microscopic level) to go in Peter’s body and terminate all his sperm.Stewie succeeds and the parents never end up having a baby. Symbolically, the spaceship represents all the power Stewie has in his life. Such a complicated, high-tech machine for a baby to control signifies how he has the command to manipulate what he pleases. By inhibiting their chances of creating a baby, Stewie clearly portrays the carnivalesque idea of role reversal.It is not coincidental that Stewie’s strong character is that of a baby.“Family Guy” is using this role reversal of giving a baby power over it’s parents to, like “South Park”, mock what is supposed to be authoritative.Parents are normally the ones that direct the life of their baby.However, Stewie diminishes this norm, which is an apparent depiction of carnivalesque ideas.
“The Simpsons” is another great example of carnivalesque.In the episode “Tis the Fifteenth Season,” Homer realizes he is a selfish person and thereby declares he will become “the nicest guy in town.”However, already holds that title. In result, a battle breaks out between them, as they struggle to gain the title of the “nicest guy in town”.In one scene Homer becomes jealous when he hears has given everyone a Christmas gift.He therefore begins to plan on how he will buy everyone a car to exceed act of generosity.However, Lisa stops her dad and explains, “Dad you don’t have to out-do .Just remember the spirit of the season.”She then declares that Christmas is not about presents or competitions, but about family and love.Once again, the roles are being reversed.Lisa, a little girl, has to explain an extremely important concept to her father.Parents are usually the ones to teach these lessons to children; however, Lisa is the true “parent” in this scene.In addition, this episode depicts Homer to be as dumb as a cat or dog.All three (Homer, the cat and the dog) are wearing Christmas sweaters. As the dog and cat roll on the ground biting at theirs, so does Homer.Carnivalesque often portrays these types of role reversals, and undermining of authority.Stereotypically, the male adult figure is one that carries the most knowledge, power and authority.However, Homer truly acts like a child.He is selfish, silly and immature.Instead this intelligent and powerful status is given to a seven or either year old girl.Carnivalesque is depicted, as a complete opposite role reversal is apparent.Without Lisa’s insight and awareness, Homer would have succeeded in ruining the concepts of Christmas.
Both “Family Guy” and “The Simpsons” are progressive as well.The strong characters in these two shows are the children, Stewie and Lisa.These shows dramatically change what is normally viewed as traditional.Parents no longer teach their kids, rather the children teach them.In addition, the parents do not have the ability to direct their children’s lives; instead their children are directing their lives. Much like “,” “Family Guy” and “The Simpsons” depict families as if they are on the other side of the mirror.They are merely reversed.These thoughts encourage us, as the audience, to rethink what we consider as normal.In addition, like the “” movie, both of these shows counter and mock stereotypical children’s shows.Conservatively children’s shows are supposed to protect innocence, show adults as authority figures and teach what is typically right. “Family Guy” and “The Simpsons” obviously bend these rules and are therefore extremely progressive.
“,” “Family Guy,” and “The Simpsons,” are only a few of the shows that possess these ideas of carnivalesque and progressiveness.However, all three portray these concepts beautifully.From role reversal, to degrading authority, and to using humorous situations, voices, and bodily functions to mock the revered, these shows are carnivalesque.In addition, they break the stereotype that creates a conservative work.Instead they are progressive as they challenge us to rethink what should be, and uniquely see the ideas that contradict our norms.
The fairy tale Snow-white and Rose-red, by the Grimm brothers, is an excellent example of a conservative, adult-centered text.In this text, the agency is with the adults and the children are seen as nostalgic images of childhood.Snow-white and Rose-red prove that children are good and follow the direction of adult figures even when the adult may not be present.
The conservative nature of this text is overwhelming.The author is not challenging children to do anything; but rather teaching them that if they are obedient then they will be happy.For example, Snow-white and Rose-red are described in various ways throughout the story: “ . . . the sweetest and best children in the world, always diligent and always cheerful . . . they always walked about hand in hand whenever they went out together . . . they drew round the fire, while the mother put on her spectacles and read aloud from a big book and the two girls listened and sat and span . . . the tender-hearted children . . .”The children are described as wonderful and obedient children who help anyone in need.They are seen as a quaint family that never argues, listens to their mother read stories around a fire, and did traditional “girl” things like spinning.The ending shows that because of their good hearts they were rewarded: “Snow-white married him, and Rose-red his brother, and they divided the great treasure the dwarf had collected in his cave between them.The old mother lived for many years peacefully with her children . . .”This “fairy tale” ending shows that if you are a good child then good things will happen to you.The text does not wish for children to challenge the things that their mother tells them to do.The text reinforces a sense of good behavior and family closeness.
In this family, the mother is the one with the authority and all of the agency.The girls are attentive to the instructions of their mother and follow them with haste.There are several things that the girls did to help their mother around the house and around the woods: “Show-white sat at home with her mother and helped her in the household…[they] kept their mother’s cottage so beautifully clean and neat that it was a pleasure to go into it…the mother sent the children into the wood to collect fagots…the mother sent the two girls to the town to buy needles, thread, laces, and ribbons.”This shows their obedience because the children did what their mother told them without hesitation or argument.In an adult-centered text, children understand that adults know better than children so they must follow what adults say.Another example when the children listen to the knowledge from their mother is when the mother tells them, “‘Rose-red, open the door quickly; it must be some traveler seeking shelter.’ Rose-red hastened to unbar the door… ‘Snow-white and Rose-red, come out; the bear will do you no harm; he is a good, honest creature.’”The text ends with the mother being correct when the bear’s “skin suddenly fell off, and a beautiful man stood beside them, all dressed in gold.”By listening to the mother and her knowledge, the story had a happy ending.This shows the readers that children should listen to their mothers or other adult figures because, of course, they know more than a child.This adult-centered trait is highly visible throughout the text.
Yet another image of the children, in this adult-centered text, is when they follow the directions of their mother even when she is not there.The mother has engrained the children with the importance of being kind to everyone.They show kindness to the dwarf throughout the story even though he was not nice to them.Some of the rude comments that the dwarf makes about the girls are: “‘You stupid, inquisitive goose!’… ‘Crazy blockheads!’… ‘Curse these rude wretches, cutting off a piece of my splendid beard!’… ‘you toadstools’… ‘Couldn’t you have treated me more carefully?You have torn my thin little coat all to shreds, useless, awkward hussies that you are!’” The girls have saved his life three times and yet the dwarf can only be ungrateful and mean to them.This does not deter the girls from their kind-heartedness and helping anyone in need.“The girls were accustomed to his ingratitude, and went on their way and did their business in town.”This shows that, without their mother’s advice, the girls continued to rescue the dwarf and treat him with kindness.This is an excellent example of an adult-centered trait.
Snow-white and Rose-red are perfect symbols of the nostalgic childhood images who end up being rewarded for their good nature and kind hearts.The authors are showing that if a child is obedient and good then they will surely receive a reward in the end.There are many attributes of an adult-centered text that this story has which contributes to the conservative nature of the text. This text is extremely conservative and adult-centered in various ways.
“Hard by a great forest dwelt a poor wood-cutter with his wife and his two children,” begins Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm’s famous fairy tale, “Hansel and Grethel.”“Hansel and Grethel” is a magical tail about two children who cleverly outsmart their evil stepmother, and a wicked witch to stay alive.This fairytale encompasses some of the topics we have discussed in class.It not only is incredibly child centered, but it also is progressive.
“Hansel and Grethel” is extremely child centered. The Grimm brothers depicted both Hansel and Grethel as smart, capable people.After she told her plan of leaving the children off in the woods alone to the father, the wife maliciously stated, “They will not find their way home again, and we shall be rid of them.”Fortunately, Hansel and Grethel both heard this speech, and decided something must be done to outsmart her evil plot. As Hansel dropped pebble after pebble on the road to help them find their way home, the wife noticed that he consistently looked back at the house.“Hansel what art thou looking at there and staying behind for,” the wife demanded.He replied, “I am looking at my little white cat, which is sitting up on the roof and wants to say goodbye to me.”“Fool, that is not thy little cat, that is the morning sun which is shining on the chimney,” explained the wife.Although Hansel’s answer is silly, the wife and father did not suspect his pebble trail.Therefore, his plan worked and he and his sister are able to find their way home after being left in the woods.By, having the ability to outsmart the adults, Hansel proved to have a great amount of agency.He not only had the courage to secretly plot against them, but also managed to trick them into believing he was just a childish boy fantasizing about his cat.His lie about the cat is significant because it shows that he understands adults have these assumptions that children are childlike in their thinking.He is able to use this stereotype about children against his parents, ultimately tricking them into thinking he is incapable of “adult like” complex thinking and planning.
Grethel also had her moment of greatness when she tricked the witch.Smartly, Grethel told the old witch she did not understand how to get in the oven.The witched replied haughtily, “Silly goose, the door is big enough; just look, I can get in myself!”As the evil hag climbed into the oven, Grethel courageously shoved her inside and locked the door.Ultimately, the witch was engulfed in flames resulting in her ruin. Like Hansel, Grethel is depicted as a stronger, smarter character than the adults, especially the witch, within this fairytale.Since, child-centered texts always portray the children as the most powerful, capable, independent characters, it is fitting that “Hansel and Grethel” would fall under this category.Both children easily trick the adults.In addition, they have the power to find their way through the woods at the end of the story with no pebbles or bread to guide them.The two children truly have an enormous amount of agency as they not only can outsmart the adults, but also can manipulate nature to help them.As they came to a “great piece of water” on their journey home from the gingerbread house, they realized they had no means to cross it.However, Grethel noted, “a white duck is swimming there; if I ask her, she will help us over.”Indeed, the duck does help them, and they return home safely.It is as if Hansel and Grethel gain more confidence, and agency as they manipulate and conquer every obstacle crossing their path.
Another example of why this text is child-centered is how the adults are depicted.First, it is important to note that it is only the children who have names.All of the adults in this text are referred to as, the “father,” the “wife” and the “old witch.”This is a very child-centered quality, as it gives no individuality to the adults, thus exemplifying their lack of importance.In addition, the adults are all portrayed as selfish, weak, and evil.The wife was clearly selfish and evil, as she wanted to “be rid” of her children so she could have more food to eat.In complaint to his wife’s wishes the father replied, “How can I bear to leave my children alone in the forest? The wild animals would soon come and tear them to pieces!”Selfishly and uncaringly the wife cried, “O, thou fool! Then we must all four die of hunger, thou mayest as well plane the planks for our coffins.”She would rather her children be torn to pieces by “wild animals” than have to share her food, and sacrifice her own hunger.
Also, although, the father was undoubtedly seen as the “good” parent of the two, he was plainly a weak character.The father barely stood up for his children, and let his wife send them to their deaths. After agreeing to go along with her plan he sadly said, “But I feel very sorry for the poor children, all the same.”Not once, was the father threatened by his wife. He merely gave into her, even though it was clear that he loved his children dearly.This lack of confidence completely undermines the father’s authority as an adult.Although he is a good character, he has no power to stand up for what he believed and felt strongly for. In addition, describing the old woman with the candy covered house, the Grimm’s wrote, “she only pretended to be so kind; she was in reality a wicked witch, who lay in wait for children, and had only built the house of bread in order to entice them there.” She, like the stepmother is evil. Therefore, it is apparent, that all three adults in this story are perceived as evil or weak, making this a truly child-centered text.
In addition to child-centered, “Hansel and Grethel” also is significantly progressive.In the beginning of the story, when the stepmother described her plan to leave the children, she stated, “They will not find their way home again.”The stepmother assumed that the children were naïve and incapable of taking care of themselves.She believed that they could never locate their way out of the woods because they were mere children, and would have no adult to guide them.However, they break these assumptions by finding their way through the forest not once, but twice. This is extremely progressive, because it challenges some of the stereotypical assumptions about childhood.Children are often thought of as very dependent on their parents and innocent; however, Hansel and Grethel clearly do not need their parents to find their way.They are also far from naïve.They are well aware of the stepmother’s wicked intentions.
In fact, the children not only found their way through the confusing woods and saved themselves from the horrid witch, but they also saved their father. The Grimm brothers wrote, “Grethel emptied her pinafore until pearls and precious stones ran about the room, and Hansel threw one handful after another out of his pocket to add to them.”This shows how much agency the children had, as they saved themselves and then came home with enough diamonds and jewels to support their father as well. The story ends, “Then all the anxiety was at an end, and they lived together in perfect happiness.”This fairytale is truly progressive as gives the power over to the children. In a more conservative text the father would have been the savior; however, it is Hansel and Grethel who hold all the power and save the day.
“Hansel and Grethel” is an excellent example of a progressive, child-centered text. It challenges assumptions about children, and gives children a great amount of agency.Hansel and Grethel are depicted as capable strong characters, whereas the adults are seen as evil and weak.The children also reject the norms of childhood that suggest life for a child is simple and fun, as they understand their lives are complex, and they work hard to control the situations around them. In total, “Hansel and Grethel” challenges us as readers to truly see how powerful children can be.
8.(from Final Exam)
~Interpellation is the idea that we are “bred” to think, act and react in certain ways.
~We are interpellated from the day that we are born into specific roles that society has created for us
~Girls being portrayed in magazines playing with dolls and loving the color pink is an example of gender role interpellation
~Interpellation is subtle—the point of interpellation is for a person to feed into something without even realizing that they are doing so.
~ Interpellation is used in almost every aspect of our society, especially in the marketing of merchandise
~Interpellation can be found in many situations, but the most prominent example of interpellation that I always think of is the typical male and female roles that we are “assigned” from a very early age. There are certain things that are “normal”, if not expected of a boy, simply because he is a boy. By there same token, there are certain things that are expected of a girl to maintain her societal femininity. From a young age, we are lead to believe that boys are the dominant, more powerful sex. Females are portrayed as care takers and are often seen as being more compassionate and caring then males are. Men are expected to rougher and less sensitive. The men are expected to work hard to bring home money to support their families. Females are often portrayed as being more in touch with their emotions. None of these ideas applies to any one person any more so then do personality traits, but our society interpellates these ideas into our minds every minute of every day. The following passage is from my paper on the Goonies, in which I highlight some examples of the interpellation typical female and male roles in this movie.
“The interpellation of society’s view of typical female and male roles is very obvious in this movie. The boys seem to be portrayed in the usual ways, as being mischievous and thrill seeking, while the girls are shown as weak and scared. The oldest girl, Andy, seems more concerned with her crush throughout the movie then she does with finding the gold and taking an active role in the adventure. There is a point in the movie where Mikey tells Andy that she may want to hold his hand because it was dark up ahead and it may be dangerous. This is another example of the girls and the guys being put into common roles that society has created for them. As we have been told since we were young children through fairy tales and everyday life, men are supposed to take care of females and be there to protect them. Another example of interpellation is when Brent, Mikey’s older brother, makes a comment in the movie asking why he couldn’t have had a little sister instead of a little brother, as if to say that only a boy is daring enough to start the trouble that they are in.This statement reaffirms the idea of interpellation of typical male and female roles in this film.”
~ The following excerpts looks at an example of interpellation from the 1980’s classic, The Goonies:
“Something that is interesting in this movie is that the Goonies all seem to be misfits. There is a scene where the developer’s son drives past Mikey’s older brother, Brent. The developers son is driving a convertible and wearing his letter jacket and has two girls in his car, while Brent is wearing ratty old sweats and is riding his little brothers bike. Interpellation is shown in the idea that the rich kids are cool and popular, while the poor kids are unpopular and outcasts.”
“Mikey’s family seems to be having some emotional problems. Mikey’s older brother, Brent, always makes fun of their father and doesn’t seem to have a lot of respect for him. This shows the idea that families who don’t have a lot of money are less stable and ultimately less happy.At the end of the movie, when the family realizes they have enough money to save their home, they come together and hug each other and really show affection towards each other for the first time in the movie. Again, interpellation is shown in that money and material things bring happiness. “
~We seem to idealize wealthy families in our society because we are under the warped impression that they are happier then ourselves because they have everything that they want. Children who are born into wealth and privilege are showcased in reality television and documentaries, further rubbing our noses in the fact that there are parents who can provide for their children in ways that you or I could never imagine (from a material standpoint). Our culture seems to go out of its way to display this quality, to make those who have more feel better about themselves and those who have less feel worse. We are interpellated be jealous of other peoples luck and fortune, when we should be thankful for the opportunities that we have instead of being angry about the opportunities that we don’t. I think this reoccurring theme is strong in the Goonies. As described in the excerpt Mikeys family is portrayed as poor and unhappy. Nothing seems to go right for them, mainly because of the fact that they don’t have any material wealth. The rich family holds the happiness of the poor family in its hands. The rich family has all of the agency while the poor family has none. Like in our society, the poor are at the mercy of the rich.
~We are interpellated to believe that the main centers of power and authority in our society, i.e. the government, our parents, the president, are inherently good and always right—they(the powers that be) do this to try and keep us in our place. They want to keep power in the hands of those who have always had it, and usually on of the only ways to do that is to interpellate society to believe that that is where the power and authority belong in the first place.
~Like the magazine add that you showed us that said “All girls love princesses, pink and parties” (or something to that effect), we are spoon feeding interpellated gender roles to our children. Certainly, all girls DON’T love princesses and all girls don’t love pink. In fact, I always hated princesses and pink for that matter. By saying “All girls”, marketing agencies are really embracing interpellated gender roles and using them to try and sell their product, which often works (unfortunately).
~I wrote about the role of interpellation in Jack and the Bean Stalk. Below are some detailed examples of interpellation that I found in this particular version of the story:
“Jack goes into town to sell Milky-White to try and get money for he and his mom. He is stopped along the way by a strange old man. The picture of the old man in this story is interesting because the old man is dressed rather uniquely. I think that this shows interpellation because it shows that strange people dress differently from normal people. The illustration provides the reader with a distinction between “strange” and “normal” based solely on appearance. It reaffirms the idea that one can determine who is normal and who isn’t, simply by looking at them.”
~I think that this is a common idea in our society. In the , we assert ourselves and are identity at first impression, based solely on our clothing. We have been interpellated to look critically on those who dress strange or different then ourselves and are often interpellated from a young age to be weary of those who “look” different from us. Like I said in the paper, distinctions between strange and normal are made all of the time based on clothing. If I were to dread lock my hair, someone might look at me and think I was perhaps dirty or unprofessional, when my goal is doing so was only to embrace a low maintenance lifestyle. We make assumptions like the previous constantly, based on appearance alone. First impressions, based almost entirely on looks, determine who we do and don’t interact with. We are interpellated to believe that we must dress certain ways for certain occasions. Different outfits are appropriate for different events and not knowing what is appropriate when can prove to be a very big problem in some people’s eyes.
~Below is another part of my Jack and the Bean Stalk paper which highlights an example of interpellation through male and female roles within the text:
“The depiction of typical male and female roles in this story are almost overwhelming. After Jack climbs the beanstalk, he finds the giants wife, who just returned from picking flowers. He asks her for something to eat and she says that she will make him something to eat, but that they must be fast because her husband gets home soon. The female giant is portrayed as the common “homemaker” type. She is patiently waiting for her husband to get home and is picking flowers to pass the time and she is the one who does all of the cooking for her husband. The wife also seems to be at the mercy of her husband. In the story she invites Jack inside but warns him that her husband likes to eat little boys. Interpellation is shown in the idea that the giant has the control over his wife and her opinion on the welfare of Jack is irrelevant to him. As soon as the giant gets home, he demands dinner and his wife, who has already had it prepared, brings it to him right away. Again, this is reaffirming typical male and female gender roles in that it is the female’s responsibility to wait on her husband. Another good example of interpellation is when the male giant says “wife, bring me my bags of gold, and I will count my money before I take a nap” (11). The female giant seems to act like a servant to her husband; throughout the story he demands things and she brings them for him right away. It is also interesting that the husband is only concerned with eating, sleeping and money, which is a very typical depiction of males.
~ We are interpellated through religion, politics and the school systems.
Kingdom Hearts as a Child-Centered Text
In the Playstation 2 game Kingdom Hearts, players are introduced to a young boy named Sora who is thrown into a struggle to save not one, but multiple worlds from a mysterious force known as the Heartless. Sora finds himself suddenly wielding a magical weapon called the Keyblade, which just happens to be the only thing that can fight the Heartless, and an artifact that Donald Duck and Goofy have been ordered by Mickey Mouse to find. Sora has a different mission- he is looking for his two best friends, Riku and Kairi, who disappeared when his world was destroyed by the Heartless. Together, Sora, Donald and Goofy venture to different worlds, meet many other Disney characters, and battle the Heartless in hopes of restoring balance to the worlds. However, their quest is much more complicated than saving the world from evil- the line between good and bad becomes blurred as the corrupting power of the Heartless affects Sora’s friends, and Sora himself must learn where his strength lies and decide whether or not to use it. At first, Kingdom Hearts appears to be a light fairy-tale about good fighting evil, but it soon becomes apparent that Sora and childlike characters like Donald and Goofy are dealing with issues not typically found in adult-centered texts, and more importantly, they are doing it without the aid of just, authoritative adults.
The adults in Kingdom Hearts are a far cry from the knowledgeable, caring, strong individuals typically found in adult-centered texts. The first major group of adults consists of the villains from various Disney movies who are working together with the Heartless to take over their worlds. This group includes such characters as Jafar, Captain Hook and Maleficent, all of which are most likely already infamous to the player for their deeds in their respective films. The game presents them as completely irredeemable- they are evil, corrupt, and will stop at nothing to achieve their goals, even if it means dealing with the mysterious Heartless. Of course, one by one their plans backfire and they are either defeated by Sora or betrayed by the Heartless, which is a rather adult-centered way of dealing with bad adults. However, the second major group of adults makes up for this. These characters are the heroes that the villains originally battled- Aladdin, Tarzan and Jack Skellington, for example. While they are on Sora’s side, these characters are still far from all knowing and perfect, and can even act more like children than Sora does. Upon arriving in , for example, Sora, Donald and Goofy are shocked to see that Jack has recruited the Heartless in the annual Halloween festival. Fortunately, they soon learn that Jack doesn’t actually realize how dangerous they are- he just thinks they’re really scary-looking and would be a great addition to the celebration. In addition to these two groups of adults, Kingdom Hearts features adults that appear to be in positions of authority, but in reality have little or no power over children. In the world of The Little Mermaid, King Triton has lost much of his control over Ariel- the scene where he originally destroys all of her treasures becomes much less devastating in the game, where he only destroys an item that is later revealed to be useless anyway. In fact, Triton’s power as an authoritative figure is decreased so much that Ariel and Sora have to save him from Ursula. The game makes brief mention of Sora’s own family, but it is clear that like King Triton, they have very little control over Sora. His mother is heard once at the beginning of the game, where she calls him for dinner, but the same exact scene shows Sora sneaking out of the house through his bedroom window. After that, there is no mention at all of his parents- Sora doesn’t even appear to miss them. Mickey Mouse is the closest thing to a central authority figure the game has because he is the main reason why Donald and Goofy are exploring the worlds, and thus, the reason why Sora is brought along. He also knows much more about the invading Heartless and the Keyblade’s powers than anyone else. However, it is interesting to note that Mickey is more of a childlike character than an adult, due to his being an animal.
In addition to Mickey Mouse, Donald and Goofy are also very childlike. Donald still has a short temper and is very annoyed at the idea of the legendary Keyblade Master being a kid. He and Sora do not get along very well, but their arguments are small and childish, and they usually make amends shortly after. Goofy tries hard to be the mediator between the two, but he usually ends up doing what Donald tells him to avoid causing more trouble. Both characters display a large amount of agency late in the game when they are forced to make a difficult decision regarding being with Sora or following Mickey’s orders- Sora loses the Keyblade for a short time, during which Donald and Goofy leave him because they can’t let it out of their sight. However, Goofy soon realizes that Sora is too good a friend to just abandon and has a change of heart. Donald is a bit more stubborn, but sees Goofy’s point and rejoins them. Sora himself also has a huge amount of agency, possibly more than anyone else in the game. His agency is represented by the Keyblade, which is regarded as a symbol of great power in every world he visits. When he loses it, he can only get it back by realizing that its strength comes from his heart. Sora receives the Keyblade by resisting the Heartless when his world is destroyed- it recognizes that he is strong and good-hearted. When he learns of his destiny as the Keyblade Master, he embraces it rather than running from such a huge responsibility, if only because he hopes that it will lead him to his missing friends. One of Sora’s friends, Riku, also displays agency, but it comes at a price- instead of resisting the darkness that destroyed his and Sora’s world, Riku joins it and ends up being possessed by the leader of the Heartless. However, he realizes that he is being used to hurt his friends and fights back. In an attempt to atone for the things he did while working for the villains, Riku offers to help Sora seal off the Heartless, but this act will leave him trapped with the Heartless as a result. Sora is distressed at the thought of being separated again, but Riku insists, and his confidence in Sora allows them to seal away the Heartless.
Kingdom Hearts still has some elements common to adult-centered texts, one of which is the mostly conservative plot. Sora is trying to restore the norm instead of change it, and the forces trying to cause change and disrupt the balance are the Heartless and the Disney villains. Even so, bringing order back to the worlds is not Sora’s main concern- to him it is just a means of finding his friends and repairing his own world. Sora also learns lessons throughout the game by interacting with the various characters within the Disney worlds. These morals typically connect back to Sora’s search for his friends- for example, Hercules and other competitors in the Olympus Coliseum teach him that true strength comes from friendship, and Tarzan teaches Sora that his friends are always with him if he keeps their thoughts in his heart. The lessons are highly didactic and Sora ultimately accepts them, but at the end of the game, it is clear to the player that he is still given the choice of acknowledging them or not. Finally, there is the question of what the Heartless truly represent. There is no doubt that the Heartless are pure evil- they corrupt everything they touch and bring out the very worst in anyone who deals with them. By looking at the Heartless as an adult-centeric