Analysis paralysis and Children’s Literature

We’re sure, as a kid, you read Margaret Wise Brown’s adorable book Goodnight Moon. Doesn’t the above picture just take you back to when your parents would read to you every night before bed while you were tucked in cozy under the dinosaur or Superman or Disney princess or whatever (we don’t judge) sheets? Of course, snuggling under any kind of sheets, toy trucks or Barbies, sounds awesome. Nothing beats the snow like a good blanket and a good book.

And perhaps you should consider giving Goodnight Moon another read. Yes, you may think you’re too old, but we’re here to tell you you’d be wrong. As this article from McSweeney’s (a publishing company based out of San Francisco) website explains, Goodnight Moon is not just the story of a small bunny going through his bedtime rituals, but actually an acutely poignant and subtle commentary on the materialism of the Cold War era.

The book opens as a young bunny prepares for sleep in his bedroom….As symbolic items such as a “balloon” and a “telephone” are described, our protagonist bunny, oppressively tucked into bed, resists the confines of sleep. Brown gives particular attention to a large number of animals that populate the room: “two kittens with mittens” and a “little mouse.” The room also contains a picture of a “cow jumping over a moon” and “bears on chairs.” Here, Brown twists our preconceptions of settings—where the internal now is wild, but the external (“the moon” and “the stars”) serene. The room full of raging wildlife mirrors the little bunny’s desire to throw off his sheets and play.

As you can clearly see, you’ve been looking at the book all wrong.

The endless hilarity of this fake Sparknotes aside, there’s something incredibly familiar about the humor of this article. We at Core know the importance of a good old-fashioned close reading and are, frequently we admit, guilty of analysis paralysis (the beautiful, magical official phrase for over-analysis). Goodnight Moon is perhaps an extreme example. Brown obviously did not intend an adorable bunny’s bedtime to be any sort of allegory, but intention can be tricky. How can any reader actually know the writer’s full intentions for the interpretation of a book? How can the writer even be sure for that matter? A lot happens to any book between the first inkling of inspiration to the final ok; not all of that can be cognizant.

But that’s just our ruminations. Perhaps, again, we’ve subjected ourselves to sweet, sweet analysis paralysis. Let us know if you think there are some other kids’ books out there with hidden messages we didn’t pick up when we were younger, or if you have anything to say about the sticky wicket that is intention. At least there’s one thing we can all agree on though: there’s nothing quite like putting a little thought into your humor.

Post a Comment

Your email address is never shared. Required fields are marked *