Sunday, April 20, 2008

Finally learning where the wild things are: in my unconscious!

When I was little my friend had a large armoire , the focal point of her room, that was covered in a mural of Max and the some wild things. It bothered me as a child, although I never said it, to have one book so dominate her room. My relationship with Max and Sendak has grown wildly through out the years and only as an adult can I understand why a child might feel so connected to Max, so compelled by Sendak's story, that he would want his whole room decorated with the metaphors and archetypes that Sendak so purposefully places.

I on the other hand was not so obsessed with Where The Wild Things Are until I cam to college and began to look into the study of children's books and the therapeutic usage of children's literature. I did a research paper on Sendak's use of metaphor last year. I reviewed his use of expanding images as a representation of the growing wild, I looked at some of the placement of characters and props in various books, but the whole paper fell flatly on it's face. Why? Because it did not include the child. The paper did not look at the reader and the interaction between the millions of children who read Sendak's work and why they might read his many books.

I revisited Sendak this year with a bit of trepidation as I begin my thesis on the therapeutic use of children's books. I began reading psychoanalysis: Freud, Jung, Lacan. Somewhere in the middle of reading it all I thought to myself, wait, go back. Go back to the archetypes and the collective unconscious. Look at Max, the child, the beast, the child god, the child hero, the abandoned child, and all of his manifestations of Jung's child archetype. Max is many ways the perfect representation of Jung's child archetype. This means nothing on its own. What it does mean is that Max is someone connected to the inner depths, the collective unconscious, of all people. It means that in Max, and much of Sendak's writing, is a character that all people can relate to, and they do. Sendak is not just successful because of his prose and illustrations, but he is successful because he connects to an inner part of each reader.

I may not have consciously liked Where The Wild Things Are as a child, but I certainly love it now. In fact, as a child I might have been pushing Sendak away because I did identify with his characters so much, but the point is kind of moot now. I now have a deeper understanding of Sendak, his writing, his personal history, and the way his books connect to the reader. I finally learned where the wild things are, they are hidden in my unconscious, with Max, Mickey, Ida, and a plethora of Sendak favorites.

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