Where the Wild Things Are: A literary criticism

I have to admit that I really enjoyed writing my recent literary criticism of Dear Zoo. To my surprise, however, this self-indulgent act of whimsy was really well received. So much so, people have actually asked to write more of the same. So it seems that this may be the start of a series.

The second title to get my rusty literary criticism skills applied to it is Maurice Sendak’s classic, Where the Wild Things Are. Again, it’s a book I’ve loved since childhood – indeed, the copy I read to my kids is the same one that my parents read to me.

It’s a great tale of child psychology, taming one’s inner demons and the incredible power of imagination. That said a few of my flippant, face-value questions remain unanswered…

Why does Max have a wolf suit?

Max is clearly feral. He enjoys chasing his pet dog while clutching a fork and using a hammer that’s almost as big as he is. He also threatens to eat his mother. So why has she seen fit to buy him a wolf suit? It’s basically the same thing as feeding a Mogwai after midnight. Surely a wolf moon T-shirt would have been a wiser purchase?

A photo of an illustration in Where the Wild Things Are.

Who fears who?

Having read this book hundreds of times, I’m still none the wiser as to who’s truly afraid of who. Max seems a little taken aback by the sea monster wild thing that looks a bit like Shaggy from Scooby-Doo. Then, the magic trick he performs to tame them all is little more than the “look into my eyes” approach favoured by the rubbish hypnotist in Little Britain. They play along, but still look like they want to end him.

What happens during the wild rumpus?

There are six pages without any text after Max decrees that it’s time for the wild rumpus to start. Why? Is it because they all got drunk before howling at the moon and swinging on trees? There are vines, so there could be some fermented grapes on them. It’s almost as if the story is being half-told in a flashback and reminds me of a certain sequence in The Hangover. Max is a one-man wolf pack after all…

A page from Where the Wild Things Are.

Why do the wild things want to eat Max?

When Max leaves them, the wild things beg him to stay. They then profess their love for him immediately after saying they’ll eat him. Talk about mixed messages. It’s not the biggest incentive to hop off the boat back onto terra firma either.

How long is Max gone for?

Obviously, Max doesn’t naff off to where the wild things are for two years. It’s all in his head. He hasn’t aged and his supper is waiting for him and still hot when he returns. I know from plenty of bitter experience that it takes less than half an hour for food to go cold. The moon tells a different story though. Before he sails off it’s last quarter, but is waxing gibbous at the very least on his return. This takes 18 days. I looked it up. Argh!

Do you have any unanswered questions about Where the Wild Things Are?

1 Comment
  • John Adams
    October 15, 2017

    Never heard of this book! Forget literary criticism Tom, you should seriously consider writing your own children’s book!

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