Friday 26 August 2011

Lessons from Childrens' literature

We've been listening to an audiobook of Alice in Wonderland (among other things) on our daily commute. Dodgson's portrayal of jurors is a little less than complimentary.
The twelve jurors were all writing very busily on slates. ‘What are they doing?’ Alice whispered to the Gryphon. ‘They can’t have anything to put down yet, before the trial’s begun.’

‘They’re putting down their names,’ the Gryphon whispered in reply, ‘for fear they should forget them before the end of the trial.’

‘Stupid things!’ Alice began in a loud, indignant voice, but she stopped hastily, for the White Rabbit cried out, ‘Silence in the court!’ and the King put on his spectacles and looked anxiously round, to make out who was talking.

Alice could see, as well as if she were looking over their shoulders, that all the jurors were writing down ‘stupid things!’ on their slates, and she could even make out that one of them didn’t know how to spell ‘stupid,’ and that he had to ask his neighbour to tell him. ‘A nice muddle their slates’ll be in before the trial’s over!’ thought Alice.
The judge doesn't fare much better. Re-read Alice Chapter 11 if it's been too long.

Our bedtime reading lately has included The Wizard of Oz, which has this wonderful bit on the demand for humbug. After the Wizard patiently explains that he has no magical powers and no ability to grant courage, hearts or brains, they're nevertheless demanded from him. So he supplies placebos which greatly satisfy.
Oz, left to himself, smiled to think of his success in giving the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman and the Lion exactly what they thought they wanted. "How can I help being a humbug," he said, "when all these people make me do things that everybody knows can't be done? It was easy to make the Scarecrow and the Lion and the Woodman happy, because they imagined I could do anything.
And so too went his rule of the City of Oz, where all needed to wear green-tinted spectacles nominally to protect them from the sparkling emerald radiance but really to make an otherwise normal city appear green.

There are some great lessons to be had in the classics. I wonder how much of it the three year old will pick up.

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