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October 14, 2010

I Want To Eat You Up

Love as Consumption in "Where The Wild Things Are"

In "Where The Wild Things Are," a young boy named Max goes on a fantastic adventure to an island of monsters. During the brief evolution of Max's relationship with the monsters--the book is only several pages long--Max threatens to 'eat' the monsters, and the monsters threaten to 'eat' him as well. What does it all mean?

Is it not hard for children to understand love? Not in an instinctive sense, but as a concept. One might say that children understand it better than adults. Regardless of the answer, we can be sure that describing and communicating love is no small task for a child. Adults fall into many cliches, and listen to many love songs, and hear many sad or wonderful stories about Love--yet a child has never experienced these expressions.

Max's story begins after an argument with his mother. We know that Max loves his mother, and that she loves him. She sends him to bed without his dinner, yet brings him food out of sympathy. I do not believe it is too far a stretch to say that food--and therefore the act of Eating itself--is an important symbol of the love between Max and his mother, because the very act of eating seems to be Max's primary means of expressing his love in the story as a whole.

Surely the monsters that Max threatens to eat, and vice versa, represent some aspect of Max's mother. Max and his mother love each other, yet they are forced to be at odds because as a parent, Max's mother is an authority figure. It seems logical then, that Max would express his love with a symbolic act that is indeed scary and threatening.

To threaten to consume another is a threat, but also a deep expression of love. As a child, Max is looking for the most simplistic way of expressing his love because he is too young to express it in any other way. To love someone so much is to want to become them, and thus if the saying is true that 'we are what we Eat,' eating the loved one would be the simplest way to go about doing it. I want to Eat You Up. I want to consume you. I want to take you apart and digest you so that everything you are becomes a part of me.

Joseph Campbell mentions two important items related to the process of eating, the first being dismemberment--the act of bodily deconstructing the hero before undergoing his spiritual metamorphosis--and the belly of the whale: the unconscious, non-physical world the hero goes to in order to experience his transformation. In both cases, the act of being eaten symbolizes the same kind of spiritual adventure in the non-physical, subconscious realm that Max himself experiences.

1 comment:

Julie Musil said...

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