Assignment 2An Essay on Violence in Children’sLiterature by James Highley.’For every act of violence that befalls heroesand heroines of fairy tales it is easy enough to establish a cause by pointingto behavioural flaws’ (Mary Tatar, The Classic Fairy Tales) In this essay, Iam going to explore the presence of violence in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland (will bereferred to in its more commonly known title Alice in Wonderland through therest of the essay) in (1865), and Carlo Collodi’s Pinocchio (1883) I willlook at what violence brings and how it can effect a story, and also how violencein children’s literature possibly effects the reader of the story itself. Whilst thememory of my first introduction to children’s literature came in the form of The Very Hungry Caterpillar1,one of my earliest exposures to this kind of writing was through laterversions of Pinocchio. As a child, Itook from the moral of the story to not waste what I have, be grateful forhaving good things, and to share. As I have gotten older and subsequentlydiscovered the original versions of stories like Pinocchio, I can honestly sayI was shocked to see the level of violence present in these original texts. Some of the violenceused in Pinocchio serves almost as a means to add comedy into a scene, ‘And, becomingmore and more angry, from words they came to blows, and , flying at each other,hey bit and fought, and scratched.
‘2In this section, the wood that would becomePinocchio begins to purposely antagonise Master Antonio and Geppetto. Thissection, I believe, adds a certain silliness to the old characters, likely tobe amusing to a young reader, and possibly an older one. However, this seendoes link to the quote made earlier in the essay by Mary Tatar, to a degree.
Whilst this was not violence faced directly by Pinocchio, it is violence thatis caused by a floor in Pinocchio’s cheeky and antagonistic personality. Whilstit is likely not the case, it is possible to suggest that this was Collodishowing an early sign of the damage that can be caused as a result ofPinocchio’s actions. It would not be outlandish to think that Collodiwould want to children about the perils of bad behaviour, as he apparently(according to new found information) disliked children. Especially badlybehaved children3.The initial ending that Collodi wanted for the story was to have Pinocchio hungfor his actions. In an article called ‘Bad things happen to bad children’ by NathanielRich, the original ended was written as follows,’a tempestuousnortherly wind began to blow and roar angrily, and it beat the poor puppet fromside to side, making him swing violently, like the clatter of a bell ringingfor a wedding. And the swinging gave him atrocious spasms….His breath failed him and he could say no more.
He shut his eyes, opened hismouth, stretched his legs, gave a long shudder, and hung stiff and insensible. The end.’This ending combined with knowledge that the childless Collodidid not like children would indicate to me that Collodi used violence in hisstory order to show what can happen to you if you are bad, and influence youngreaders to behave with a better moral code than he (Collodi) apparently believedchildren at the time had. The psychologist and author Julius Ernest Heuscherhas written about the effect that folklore and fairy tales with these themes onyoung readers,’There can belittle doubt that offering a fairy tale to a fifteen-month old child would posea threat, as he could hardly separate its content from his everyday world. Itis unwise to narrate fairy tales to children much below 4 or 5 years old. The yearsfrom 5 until 12 are those during which the child both enjoys and learns fromthe fairy tale, just as the adolescent years can be enriched by legends, epos, ballads,and myths.
A rejecting or insecure parent may use the cruelties in folklore forhis own sadistic or controlling needs which in the absence of fairy tale would undoubtedlyfind other equally effective and equally harmful expressions.’4Heuscher’swritings would indicate that whilst violence in story telling does work as avessel to pass moral teaching and information, it would be abusive to try makea very young reader learn through this manor. Whilst I would agree that itwould be wrong to make someone not able to understand what they are consumingis a story read stories with such graphic violence, I think it is undeniable thelessons that Pinocchio taught and the effect that the story and character hashad on pop-culture and society.Daniela Guglietta-Possamai seems tofind an explanation for Collodi’s inher paper ‘The Twists andTurns of a Timeless Puppet: Violence and the Translation and Adaptation ofCarlo Collodi’s Le avventure di Pinocchio’,’As a nineteenth-century children’sauthor, Carlo Collodi, too, drew on the recurring motifs of violence and deathin vogue at the time. Unfortunately, owing to the dearth of pertinent materialon violence in nineteenth-century Italian children’s literature, I cannotcomment on either its use and significance specifically within the Italianliterary context or its influence on Collodi and Pinocchio. Fortunately, however,what is known about the Italian author is that in writing his masterpiece herelied heavily on the classical tradition—The Odyssey (Homer), The Aeneid(Virgil), and The Divine Commedy (Dante)’5Itwould appear a possible reason for Collodi’s violent influence on the story andteachings of Pinocchio stretch much further than the belief of he simply doesnot like children. Writing in 19th century Italy was generallyrather conservative. And as Collodi, like a lot of the contemporaries of thattime, was influenced by the Greek texts and stories which championed moralteaching and logic.
It would appear this is just how the writing of the timeworked and violence with the following repercussions was a fantastic way toconvey that message. Itwould appear that a large amount of the torment that Pinocchio suffersthroughout his adventure do in fact support the statement earlier referenced byMary Tatar. There does seem to be an action that Pinocchio does that is metwith an almost Einsteinian sense of reaction. Pinocchio’s misfortunes arealways a result of his wrong doings. Whether that is because he was violent or actedout of Geppetto’s best interest. This would appear to be aresult of children’s literature across Europe at the time taking a degree ofinfluence from older Greek stories, taking their habit to have a strong moralteaching throughout the piece. LewisCarroll also appears to have put teachings into Alice in Wonderland, but not inthe conventional style of writing seen in children’s literature during the Victorianperiod.
Lewis Carroll held many roles throughout his life. A mathematician anda logician to name a few, Carroll was quite obviously a well-educated man. Carroll’stime of writing was one of great change for Great Britain. With developmentssuch as the development of Darwinism as well as the industrial revolution, itwas a time where a lot of what people thought was not possible suddenly becamepossible. Carroll’s writing a lot of the time is not explicitly violent.However, when you reread the book as an adult, there is actually violencepresent, it just seems to be spoken rather than acted out. This can be seen inchapter 4 of Alice in Wonderland,’We must burn the housedown!’ said the Rabbit’s voice.
And Alice called out as loud as she could, ‘Ifyou do, I’ll set Dinah at you!’Thereappears to me to be a lot packed into what is quite a small quote. Firstly, theexchange between the two characters seems relatively light but what both actsare suggesting are actually rather alarming. Mr. Rabbit wanting to burn downthe house is manic, whilst Alice suggesting that she should get her cat to attackthe Rabbit seems savage. This statement is made even more alarming when youconsider that all these animals in the fantastical world that Lewis Carroll hascreated appear to be sentient, so there appears to be tones actually suggestingthe Rabbit should be murdered. Another reading that can be given to this scenecould potentially suggest that Lewis Carroll is actually making links to Darwinismin this writing.
As discussed earlier, Carroll’s time of writing was dominatedby what could have been arguably the biggest string of scientific breakthroughs that the world had seen by that point. I feel it would be hard tobelieve that any writer working at this time could avoid being even slightly influencedby the new discoveries of the time. This scene could be Carroll retelling averbal tale of survival of the fittest, suggesting that the cat kill the rabbitin a battle of supremacy, linking the text to Darwinism.Whilstverbal attacks between characters can, when analysed, can have horrible connotations,Carroll’s use of actual violence in Alice and Wonderland tends to be used as away of shocking Alice yet keep the story fight free enough for it to stay as akids book to, as George Kruglov pointed out in his article called ‘Diluted andIneffectual violence in the Alice Books’,’violent acts committed bycharacters throughout lack the aspect of damage and injury, making the violencewatered down and ineffective.
‘6Carroll’s use of this typeof violence can be seen in chapter 6 of Alice in Wonderland,’the cook takes the cauldron of soupoff the fire, and at once set to work throwing everything within her reach atthe Duchess and the baby.’Whilstan act of violence making physical contact does not appear in this section, anyadult will see that the Duchess and the baby nearly got scolded in what was aterrible and outrageous act by the cook. Whilst a child may be able tounderstand this act was bad, it takes until you become an adult to realise justhow dangerous and violent this act is. Lewis Carroll seems to use violence inmany forms to show when people are acting wrong.
Whilst the reader may not pickup on the severity of the actions, I certainly did not at that age, throughoutthe story the violent words and violent actions performed by characters seemabsolutely abhorrent. Whilst Carroll’s presentation of violence is less obviousthan other writing at the time and before, like Pinocchio, there still seems tobe an almost subconscious teaching the violence should be avoided as violencebrings danger to yourself and people around you.Theinteresting thing about Alice as protagonist is that at times she seems toreact to the violent themes and violent characters running throughout thestory. This can be seen in chapter 6, ‘The Queen turned crimson with fury, and, after glaring at herfor a moment like a wild beast, began screaming “Off with her head! Offwith – ” “Nonsense!” said Alice, very loudly and decidedly, and theQueen was silent.’ Carrollpresents the Queen of Hearts as one of the most violent characters in the storywhilst at the same time portraying her similar to a petulant child. All of herproblems she solves by beheading people.
When she becomes intimidated by Alice,she naturally threatens and commands that she be beheaded. Yet Alice’s responseleaves the queen bested. It is possible that this section of the story, this interchange,was written by Lewis Carroll to show the reader that Alice brings human reactionto the violence in Wonderland. Whilst she may at times react like a child inthe story, this is understandable as Alice is obviously a child. Yet at timeslike these, when in the face of blatant violence, Alice seems to mirror thereaction of the reader.
Whilst Lewis Carroll wrote the story Alice in Wonderlandas a story for children, and it is still considered children’s literature, overthe years after the book was published many adults have taken to the book andit is possible to argue that the adult audience for Alice in Wonderland ispotentially a lot larger than the intended children’s audience. Yet the sensethat Alice reflects the views of the reader still seems to be an accuratereading of her reactions in the story. It is possible that Lewis Carroll’sportrayal of Alice in the story actually teaches the reader right from wrong throughthe reactions to the violence. An interesting point about the queen of Heartswas brought up by Dennis Knepp in Lotte Roelofs’ academic paper ‘Peter Pan and Alice’s Adventures inWonderland: The Influence of Dystopian Elements on the Teaching of Morals,’Dennis Knepp argues that the Queen ofHearts is used to satirise dictators, because many “ruthless tyrants terrorizethe people, supposedly for their own good’7Itis possible to suggest that this was Lewis Carroll subtly casting his opinionon Queen Victoria II, as she was the reigning monarch at the time Thenotion I find quite interesting Is that I do not think that Lewis Carroll’sAlice’s Adventures in Wonderland actually applies to the statement earlier madeby Mary Tatar.
Whilst it may be true for certain exceptions, I believe for themost part that a lot of the drama and violence that Alice falls victim to inthe book actually stem from the behaviour of other characters rather than theyoung naïve protagonist in Alice. Granted, whilst I would not class Alice inWonderland as a fairy tale, and Fairy tale character mishaps is what Mary Tatarwas focusing on, I feel this shows a change in the reception of violence inchildren’s literature as children’s literature has developed across centuries. Despitebeing published in the 19th century, Collodi’s presentation ofviolence in Pinocchio is vastly different to Lewis Carroll’s presentation anduse of violence in Alice in Wonderland. Though I suppose you could suggest thatlate 19th century Italy, that Collodi was writing in, and the mid tolate Great Britain, that Lewis Carroll was writing in, were vastly differentplaces. Collodi’s Pinocchio, despite being published after Alice in Wonderland,seems a lot more dated with its heavily folklore inspired way of using extremegraphic violence and subsequent punishment as a way to portray a moral to thestory. Alice in Wonderland, however, features a strong female protagonist whoreacts in the face of violence. Carroll’s type of violence he gives us thereader is different to what his fellow writers were offering at the time. Alicein Wonderland definitely seems relevant and ahead of its time compared toPinocchio.
Itis interesting, however, that after all the differences between the presentationof violence in Collodi’s Pinocchio and the violence in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’sAdventures in Wonderland, that both the texts have in some sense graduated tobe read by all readers rather than just young readers. In fact, similar to thepoint I made earlier that the protagonist Alice lending herself more to anadult reader than a child reader, many feel that the Pinocchio actually alsolends itself to a more grown up reader. It is as I got older that I started tonotice literary choices that Collodi made, such as beginning the story with theclassic fairy tale opening, ‘Once upon a time.’, then beginning to break fairytale tropes, which I can appreciate as a very smart decision now I have gottenolder and a more experienced reader. I think whilst the two texts use twocompletely different styles of violence to varying levels of shock, both textsstill use violence as a way to convey teachings to the young reader, and toentertain. 1 TheVery Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle, 1969 2 PinocchioIbooks version, Whitman publishing company.3Badthings happen to bad children, Nathaniel Rich http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/books/2011/10/carlo_collodi_s_pinocchio_why_is_the_original_pinocchio_subjecte.html4 JuliusErnest Heuscher, found in Violence and fear in fairy tales, by David Boudinot.https://www.lib.latrobe.edu.au/ojs/index.php/tlg/article/view/31/355 DanielaGuglietta-Possamai, The Twists and Turns of a Timeless Puppet: Violence and theTranslation and Adaptation of Carlo Collodi’s Le avventure di Pinocchio6 Dilutedand ineffectual violence in the Alice books, George Kruglov.7 PeterPan and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: The Influence of Dystopian Elementson the Teaching of Morals, Lotte Roelofs.