Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Loss of the Hunt

How much sensibilities have changed in the last hundred years . . . Aidan and I have been reading the "Little House" books, and today we just started reading some carefully chosen excerpts from The Jungle Book. One thing that strikes me as we read these stories is how far away death has receeded from the accepted canon of children's literature.

As much as we blame the popular culture for becoming more violent, the Disney set rarely if ever have to bear the mention of killing. (The only notable exception that comes to mind is The Lion King, which is as murderous as Shakespeare ever was.) Villains are, by and large, captured and sent to prison, or at their worst they plummet to some unknown fate in a cravasse. Animals are universally for cuddling, or, in more eco-friendly times, "protecting". It never occurs to us to depict them as someone's next meal . . . or if it is, it's always an attempt that's comically frustrated, a la Wile E. Coyote's eternal quest to bag a particular fowl.

So, it comes as a bit of an abrupt shock when the Little House stories have . . . well, a lot killing in them. Laura is very matter-of-fact in describing how Pa kills the animals in the woods for meat, or how he butchers a hog, or how happy she is to see fresh kills hanging in a tree when she gets up in the morning. The Jungle Book is equally at ease talking about the wolves hunting, and all the different things they kill or don't kill. It's hard to imagine any modern story passing muster with death so . . . present. It's almost more shocking that it's not violently depicted. Death is not dramatic; it just is, and it's a part of life.

I am hard put to determine whether we are better off for that or not.


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