Where The Wild Things Are
Where The Wild Things Are, “I only have one subject. The question I am obsessed with is: How do children survive?” Maurice Sendak told Leonard Marcus, a children’s book historian, in a 2002 interview. Sendak died today at age 83.
In just 10 sentences, Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are,” illuminated not only the protagonist Max’s imagination, but also rage, a reaction to a mother’s emotional absence and the overall darker, and neglected, parts of a child’s psyche.
Clearly, Max, a young and unruly boy who is punished by his mother and sent to his room without dinner, depends on his mom. But his rage is apparent, and soon his room morphs into a strange forest. He takes a private boat to where the wild things are, and, despite their terrible roars and ghoulish features, manages to become their ruler through a magic trick. Max becomes the “most wild thing of all.”
They play, but soon, Max commands them to stop and go to bed without supper, and he finds himself lonely as the king of the wild things, and wants to be where someone loves him “best of all.” He returns to his room, where supper is waiting for him, and, with an added reassurance and charm that maybe only Sendak could pointedly portray, Max finds that the food is still hot.
In a 2009 article published in The Psychologist, Richard Gottlieb, a psychoanalyst based in Phoenix,*n*lyzed the influences and motivations behind Sendak’s illustrations and writing.
“Sendak’s work in ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ is of particular interest to psychologists due to his strikingly unusual abilities to gain access to, and to represent in words and pictures, fantasies that accompany childish rage states,” Gottlieb wrote in the paper.
“It is this capacity, I believe, that contributes to the appeal of his work to children who are unable or unwilling to articulate these states, and to adults who have forgotten them or do not wish to know about them,” Gottlieb continued. (ABC News)