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Imagination Is Necessary For Development: An Examination Of Imaginary Escapism In Children’s Literature

1790 words - 8 pages

Escapism is a prevalent theme in children’s literature. Children in these novels suddenly find themselves in a magical new world that does not seem like it could ever exist in reality. For the children in these books, the act of escaping into one’s imagination is used as a coping mechanism for what is going on in their reality. There are a variety of problems that children feel the need to escape from and usually, the majority of these problems stem from the realization that they are growing up. Children use their imagination as a safe haven where they can address these issues and develop as an individual without the fear of being judged or harmed, since it is their own imagination producing these places and adventures. Often, their journey allegorizes some other personal journey that the child goes through and learns from.
Some children, like Alice in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, use an imaginary adventure in a made-up world as an explanation for the physical changes they are experiencing that accompany development into maturity. Throughout the book, Alice undergoes multiple changes in size; from becoming very small to growing so large her arms and legs stick out the windows of a house. Her constant changing of size throughout the novel represents the changes that many young girls are confronted with the onset of puberty. These changes can leave both boys and girls feeling awkward and feel a loss of self-recognition and identity. When Alice meets the Caterpillar, he asks, “Who are YOU?” Alice replies, “’I— I hardly know, sir, just at present— at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then…I'm not myself, you see.'” (Carroll; Kindle Locations 353-356). It is clear from this exchange that Alice is very confused about what is happening to her body. She does not feel like herself anymore, and she comes up with this elaborate story to justify what is happening. It is easier for a child to accept that the reason their body is changing drastically is because they consumed a magic potion or cake, rather than trying to understand why it is happening on its own. When a child is changing as they do in puberty, both physically and mentally, it is easier to cope with these changes by making up a story that explains these new phenomenons. Wonderland, a product of Alice’s imagination, enabled her to experience and explain the changes she was going through in a safe place. By the end of her adventure, she has learned to accept herself as she is and states that “it's no use going back to yesterday, because [she] was a different person then.” (Carroll. Kindle Locations 892-893).
In The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, Milo uses his imagination as an escape from his everyday life. As Milo gets older, he feels his life is dreary and boring. Milo believes that “there’s nothing for [him] to do, nowhere [he’d] care to go, and hardly anything worth seeing.” (Juster 10). He “didn’t know what to...

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