Thursday, February 19, 2009

Teaching rule-breaking?

S.M. Hutchens considers the Harry Potter books and the contemporary children's book theme on rule-breaking:
There are indeed a great many children’s books these days which, along with other media, glorify it for its own sake, which make the will and desire to break rules a virtue, and the actual breaking a heroic slap in the face of the prigs and prunes who imagine they have the authority to impose upon the infant Invictus. The other day day I came upon this piquant title among the children's books in the New York Times Book Review: How Alice Roosevelt Broke the Rules, Charmed the World, and Drove her Father Teddy Crazy.

I’m pretty sure I recognize the genre, and am decidedly of the Hillaire Belloc school when it comes to the like. I have not seen many Newbery or Caldecott Award books lately with titles like, How Johnny Smith Broke the Rules and was Chopped to Pieces Under the Wheels of a Train, or, How Suzy Jones Broke the Rules and Lost Both Arms in the Grain Auger, or, How Billy Bezel Broke the Rules and Lost Every Friend He Had, or, How Charlie Bungbluster Broke the Rules, and Was Regarded as a Fool by Everyone Who Knew Him for the Rest of His Short, Unhappy Life. Granted, there are counter-stories that are just as true-to-life: How Dickie Dodge Broke the Rules and Became the Richest Man in Town, all patterned on the original, How Lucifer Broke the Rules and Received All the Kingdoms of the World and Their Glory.
And, by the way, Mr. Hutchens has no problem with how rule-breaking is treated in the Harry Potter books.


Blogger smijer said...

I agree with Mr. Hutchens. I think that Ms Rowling does an astounding job demonstrating the situational ethic of sometimes breaking a smaller rule for a greater principle without confusing the issue of how rules should normally apply. I especially remember the praise Longbottom received for standing up to his friends when he believed them to be out of line and breaking important rules in dangerous ways.

12:28 PM, February 19, 2009  
Blogger Milton Stanley said...

I agree. I can't count the number of times Harry and crew could have gotten out of trouble by coming clean with Dumbledore. Of course, as a fiction writer I know it was a plot device (and a realistic one, I think). Thanks for commenting.

12:33 PM, February 19, 2009  

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