Monday, July 25, 2011

30 Day Book Challenge - Day 6

Day 6 - A Book That Makes You Sad

This one turned out to be a hard entry for me to write, and it ended up a slightly inaccurate one.

Slightly inaccurate in that it's only the end of the book in question that is at all melancholy. That book, I suppose I should say, is The House At Pooh Corner, the second of the two A. A. Milne books that introduced the world to Winnie-the-Pooh, Christopher Robin, and the other denizens of the Hundred-Acre Wood.

Now, I've been a fan of the Bear of Very Little Brain pretty much since infancy; therefore, I was quite thrilled when my family acquired a nice hardbound copy of The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh many years ago. I read it many times in middle school and after, and not always to my intellectual betterment (I distinctly recall one instance in which I received a less-than-stellar grade on a spelling test, partially for submitting the word hunnysuckle).

Negative influences on my spelling skills aside, I like this book for quite a bit. While most of the book is quite funny (and occasionally in ways at odds with the way Disney handles the characters - Eeyore in particular makes quite a few cutting remarks at opportune moments). The last couple of chapters, however, have always made me a bit melancholy.

For the penultimate chapter, this was largely because of the callous way Owl and Eeyore force Piglet out of his home. The fact that they don't seem to have realized it almost makes it worse - even as a little kid I found that whole sequence very unfair.

But it's really the last chapter that makes The House At Pooh Corner worth mentioning in this category. It's really quite odd, since the last sentence would seem to be a hopeful one:

"But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them along the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest, a little boy and his Bear will always be playing." 

Despite this, the parts of the chapter immediately prior to this are all about how Christopher Robin's education is strange and confusing to Pooh, hearkening back to earlier chapters in which his schooling causes him to disappear completely from the Wood.

So on the one hand, you have the naturally bittersweet theme of growth, of leaving one stage and entering another. On the other, you have a deliberate subversion of this theme, with a hint that this subversion is not quite natural (note the reference to an enchanted place). I find the resulting clash somewhat distressing, and usually left me feeling sad when I finished the book.

Not that that ever stopped me from re-reading it, though.

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