Michelle Ann Abate reveals that violence has always played a central role in children’s books—
from actual fairy tales up to high school reading lists today.
In short, it’s not just adults, with their true crime books and endless reruns of “Law & Order,” who are hooked on homicide.
As Abate writes, “the American obsession with murder also permeates its literature for children.”
Grimm’s Fairy Tales, which contain far more violence and depravity than Disney viewers might imagine.
There’s also J. M. Barrie’s “Peter Pan,” where Captain Hook plots the death of Peter (and Tinker Bell mulls the murder of Wendy).
Tom Sawyer watches a man drive “the knife to the hilt” in another man’s chest, “flooding him with his blood.”
And entire massively popular series, including Goosebumps and Fear Street, revolve in large part around murders.
Indeed, some library catalogs now use “Murder—Juvenile fiction” as a subject heading.
Nathan Bransford had an excellent article,
VIOLENCE IN AMERICAN CULTURE:http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2012/07/violence-in-american-culture.html
As Nathan says, there is a lot of violence in today's YA.
When the Queen in “Alice in Wonderland” screams “Off with her head!” it’s not just a punch line, but an allusion to the real-life queen’s ability to execute her subjects for any one of 200-plus crimes.
The long history of kids’ books addressing our potential for violence can also add perspective to the handwringing over “The Hunger Games.” In fact, the literature children read has changed far less than we think. Their parents—well, does 50 SHADES sound familiar?
Look at the cover of THE LEGEND OF VICTOR STANDISH:http://www.amazon.com/THE-LEGEND-VICTOR-STANDISH-ebook/dp/B005NCUTAG/ref=pd_sim_kstore_29
The Victorian ghoul, Alice Wentworth, is clutching her gypsy love, Victor Standish, with sharp teeth bared.
Their world is dark. Their enemies foul and supernatural. Their love a beacon in the shadows. Their laughter their shield against despair.
Perhaps we do our teens no favor if we paint the world in false gilding of Pollyannish cliches. Perhaps we do them good if we show them
struggling teens combating the darkness with the light of sacrificial love and laughter thrown in the teeth of the wolves on the streets.
Closing our eyes does not make the evils disappear. Showing heroes who refuse to give in to the darkness and insist on finding laughter in their pain may be the best thing we can do.
What do you think?
Adults are fascinated by violence and murder—How did he do it? Why did he do it? What’s his punishment? It’s human nature. And children, after all, are human beings.
Edgar Rice Burroughs’s “Tarzan of the Apes,” which was first released as a magazine serial in 1912, is a great example.
There is a tidal wave of killings—people killing people, people killing animals, animals killing people. All of them are truly gruesome and gory.
The same thing’s true of “Alice in Wonderland” and many other classics, books that would never be challenged today.
These examples are all conveniently forgotten when there’s a public outcry about a particular book like "The Hunger Games" for being so graphic and so violent.
It’s almost a kind of literary amnesia.
Has the rise of senseless murders in classrooms, bombings at the Boston Marathon, and the shooting just last week across the headlines
made the public take a second look at what their children are reading?
What do you think?