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Maurice Sendak's Motivation

Dreadful nightmarish stories of pogroms, haunted graveyards and wonderful winter days skating on the frozen pond in his now-vanished village of Zembrova. He told us of his love affairs and the village dybbuks, and I repeated these stories at school and was sent home to have my mouth washed out. I told everybody that if Adam had not fooled around with that shiksa Eve, the Jews would have been much better off. (Sendak, 1998, Online).

With a childhood such as this, the die was cast for his writing. Resisting the temptation to use Max, in "Wild Things" as an alter persona for Sendak, it can safely be said that his motivation was to write "stories" not literature. And we can assume from his love of Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses that he felt a strong kinship with Stevenson, who said in that book that "A child is an adult with his eyes open."

Any consideration of Sendak must deal with his 1963 work, Where the Wild Things Are. Textually, the book begins with a fight at the dinner table where young Max refuses to eat. He is sent to his room, and in his room, strange and wondrous things begin to happen. Vines and jungles appear and he is on a strange and exotic island where he sails off from his bedroom to this land where odd and oddly drawn creatures abide.

Max is confronted by monsters, but his goal is to master and control those monsters. Finding control is what is each child must do (as must most adults) to make sense of the world. In many ways, Max is the archetypal child, and the monsters on Max's island are big and hairy but are they scary? Max doesn't seem to think so. In fact, he controls those monsters. When Sendak has the monsters cry "Please don't go!" he is granting Max the power to say no and sail back to bed.

Stevenson (1996), discussing the critical reaction to Sendak's "scariness" observes that the world is filled with dangers, and we "understandably wish to keep the children for whom we are responsi...

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Maurice Sendak's Motivation. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 01:54, August 17, 2017, from
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