All types of living beings that subscribe to sexual mode of production excessively give in before the two most fundamental natural impulses. They are sex and taste. These are the two very forces or the stimulus, which are responsible for keeping them alive from times immemorial. Theories of evolution are the most important pointer of significance of these traits, which are inextricably linked with the living beings. Sustainability and continuity of life on the planet owe to these two qualities well imbibed by the animate beings. Before reaching the age of sexual maturity, the adolescents wet their appetite by eating various edible things. Such aspects of nature of children has been built very well into the war and woof of the children’s’ literature. Kids feel great pleasure in doing so and thus have immense cravings to indulge in stuffing their tummies.
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The works, which speak most vocally about this particular quality of children, are Louise Fitzhugh’s Harriet the Spy, E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, and Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden. In the most cherished and of the most celebrated children fictions, each of these authors endeavors to exemplify the key importance of food in juveniles by comparing their stamina of eating with adults. They also portray its effect on the routine life and see its contribution to their development in the psychological ambience. This is probably the most important method of underlining the significance of food in the lives of kids that their this trait is compared with adults. It comes to magnify their nature, which drives them not to allow their bellies to be emptied. Nutrients have dual function in the lives of children. They make up for the consumed energies, sustaining growth and are the necessary input for the beginning of the diverse physiological maturation processes.
As a consequence they are naturally vested with appetite of greater room. The fundamental metabolic needs are proportionate to the capability of the appetite to absorb and digest. Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh emphasizes the explanation of more comparative demands of the kids. It is very well delineated in this work. Harriet is absolutely uncompromising in the love of food she likes most and is also inclined to eat more and more of her likings regardless of the capacity of the appetite. She does not care for any type of circumstances. This is far cry from the habits of the adult figures like figures, Catherine Golly and George Waldenstein. The night when Harriet takes them to theatre, Fitzhugh notices that Catherine and George “had giant sodas which they didn’t finish, and they took so long that [Harriet] had another egg cream” (Fitzhugh 120).
Such a contrast approach is again adopted when Harriet meets her friend, Simon Rocque. In the depiction of his father, he comments that “[w]riters don’t care what they eat. They just care what you think of them” (Fitzhugh 49). This seems to illustrate the fact that Simon’s father does not have gravitations for any forms of special food, as compared with Harriet who says that she “sure care[s] what [she] eat[s]” (Fitzhugh 49). Although it may be opined that handful of writers cannot reflect fully and truly the sentiments of adolescents, yet it simply comes up to the account of adults in references to of Harriet whose wish is to become a writer. Hence, Simon’s father may be taken as Harriet’s future in which food has ceased to exist in its preferential worth.
E. B. White again underscores the comparison of appetite in the theme of Charlotte’s Web. Wilbur’s appetite is not the one to give in before overuse of eating and superimposes all wishes; even his resolute bent of mind for freedom. The frustration of his try to unshackle from Zuckerman’s yard is highly indebted to his obliging to hunger, giving way to the conquest of “the old pail trick” (White 22). His inability to overcome the unruly appetite is magnified more by his answer to the slops for his food. E. B. White explains: “Wilbur hastened, ate everything in a rush, and licked the trough” (White 35), Wilbur in this particular episode possesses inadequate patience required to relish the longer delight of each bite, but his primary concern is to stuff his stomach in a great hurry.
This somewhat undesirable picture of animals brought about by Wilbur the glutton is abruptly compensated by the intrusion of a mature figure, Charlotte. While all this goes in the work in the form of certain semblance of obscurity in the contrast relationship, Lucy Rollin, in The reproduction of mothering in Charlotte’s web, suggests the presence of mother child ties between Charlotte and Wilbur by that “[a] s Fern recedes from mother figure to an internalized object, Charlotte the spider takes over the mothering of Wilbur” (Rollin 55). In her explanation to Wilbur of making her breakfast, Charlotte shows motherly tenderness and sidelines the food. Prior to the violent impulses simultaneously operate on her prey entangled in her net, she “knock[s] him out, so he’ll be more comfortable” (White 38); choking to tread her own ethical canons and depart the room out of sincerity. On the same lines, she realizes that she is “not entirely happy about [her] diet of flies and bugs … [but] has to pick up a living somehow or other” (White 39). This treatment and the somberness to the notion of using food is emblematic that Charlotte is standing for ‘eating to live as opposed to living to eat’, which is contrary in the matter of Wilbur’s childhood. In The Secret Garden, Burnett accomplishes a likewise comparison by means of application of an adult figure, Susan Sowerby. As deducted from her daughter, Martha, who utters that her scions “scarce ever had their stomach full in their lives” (Burnett 31), the Sowerbys do not fall in the category of affluent sections of society.
However, hailing the blasting appetite in juveniles’ protagonists – Mary Lennox and Colin Crawford, Susan commits herself to the availability of encouraging lunchtime intakes. She alludes how immense hunger they realize by illustrating them to “young wolves [to] [whom] food [is] flesh an[d] blood to [th]em” (Burnett 256), and believes that her reinforcement will help them “take off th[e] edge o[f] their hunger” (Burnett 256). Her pointing towards the sacrifice from original courtesy and philosophy magnifies the gulf of significance of food between the children and the adults.
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This idea of sticking to food as the most primary concern finds reflection in each fiction by means of depiction of their everyday life. Notion of food holding the chief priority is reflected in each fiction through the portrayal of their daily routines. Mostly the carving to contend the appetite tops the existence of the wishes of others. In Harriet the Spy, Harriet’s purpose is to be a well-informed writer, compels her to become an espionage and her regular spy course is attended and thus disrupted by her all powerful conquering appetite and altered to a stay at an egg cream luncheonette. Harriet’s intimate desires for food transforms to immense obsession and single mindedness. After the school time is over, she rushes to home in the hope of devouring delicious cake and milk, crying: “Time for my cake, for my cake and milk, time for my milk and cake” (Fitzhugh 35). While in such possession, the wish to be happy in the leisurely taste encounters some key issues. Upon being sidelined by class fellows, Harriet meets the challenge to pry into them when “it was time for her cake and milk” (Fitzhugh 210). Her old instinct of finding extra time for cake brings about the situation in which she felt compelled to do such things, hence limiting her options.
Such a food focused bent of mind of the living beings is reflected in Charlotte’s Web. As gauged from Wilbur’s plan, his day is absolutely empty but the most punctual thing in the day is having three meals on the very time with“[b]reakfast at six-thirty…[t]welve o’clock – lunchtime…[a]t four [-] supper” (White 25, 26). It is observable that frequently explaining Wilbur’s meal, White indulges in a memorable and detailed recital of the constituents and menu: “[s]kim milk, crusts, middlings, bits of doughnuts…and bits of Shredded Wheat” (White 35). Zohar Shavit represents this approach of exemplifying in Poetics of Children’s Literature. In the analysis of non principled children’s literature including a section of Enid Blyton’s texts, Shavit puts forward the argument that Blyton “seldom avoids an opportunity to describe vividly the children’s meals…[and] the fixation upon the children’s meals, besides being a method to fill up the pages, is essentially an effort to adopt a children’s point of view” (Shavit 106, 107). The children’s opinion in this scenario matches with the notion of being happy in the midst of taste for longer periods without caring for any kind of work as explained by E. B. White.
In The Secret Garden, a match able method of lively metaphor is exploited to delineate the effect of food on the everyday schedule of children. By understanding the delectability of the foods within the context of children: “a sort of tiny oven with stones and roast potatoes and eggs…[r]oasted eggs were previously unknown luxury and very hot potatoes with salt and fresh butter in them were fit for a woodland king” (Burnett 261), Burnett is committed to the elaborated depiction of the most joyful lunch times.
Such joy in catering to the needs of the appetite directly links to the regularity in food concentration schedules as seen in associates in Harriet and Wilbur. In the middle of her encouraging task, Mary is compelled to come to back to her room as she listens to “the big clock in the courtyard strike the hour of her midday dinner” (Burnett 112). It is shown that in The Secret Garden, Burnett to some degree ascribes the reason of children’s food-focused routines to physiological needs as pointed in Susan’s reference of ‘food to children’s flesh and blood’. However, each fiction interprets a different perspective from which to assault the cause for such an attitude – the psychosocial perspective.
Maslow’s classification of requirements suggested in The Theory of Human Motivation by a notable psychologist, Abraham Maslow, categorizes different wishes ruling human attitude like the appetite into a “hierarchy of relative prepotency” (Maslow 375). This prototype illuminates the physiological requirements including hunger and thirst as “channels for all sorts of other needs as well” (Maslow 373), the names of which are “safety, love, ‘esteem, and self-actualization” (Maslow 394). To say the least when the physiological needs are met, “other needs emerge and dominate the organism…when these in turn are satisfied, again new (and still “higher”) needs emerge and so on” (Maslow 375). According to this model, the frequent food obsessed schedules seen in all three fictions explained are just the representations of contending the two most fundamental requirements., Maslow feels that “children seem to thrive better under a system which has at least a skeletal outline of rigidity, [i]n which there is a schedule of a kind, some sort of routine, something that can be counted upon, not only for the present but also far into the future” (Maslow 377).
The journey of the children character into the prior stage of being the adult can be taken as similar to the psychosocial growth of children from the degree of serving physiological and safety requirements to the phase of meeting higher needs, specifically sense of affiliation which comes in the ambit of love. Such feeling of of higher needs is explained to be “not a sudden, salutatory phenomenon but rather a gradual emergence by slow degrees from nothingness” (Maslow 389). In Harriet the Spy, this process of rising slowly adopts it’s from throughout Harriet’s struggle under the suppression of her class fellows. After her tomato sandwich is whisked away, she rushes to home to have the new one. This habit springs out of her old love for wetting the appetite on regular times even at the cost of her near and dear ones and the newly growing relationships. However, as shown in her discussion with her mother: “I felt awful. I felt awful” (Fitzhugh 199), Harriet starts to think that happiness needs more than just to stuff the belly by taking on time meals and the friendship is gradually replacing the deference for food and eating. At last, concentrating on social issues and not the questions of cook: “How about your cake and milk?” (Fitzhugh 241), she evolves into a “prepotent” phase, behind the physiological and safety requirements but engulfing love and affiliations.
To put into nutshell, Louise Fitzhugh’s Harriet the Spy, E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web and Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden all depict the obsession with eating as a typical nature carved in the heart of every kid. Their natural food-centered schedule is explained as an irresistible element in the process of growing to adulthood in the scenario of Abraham Maslow’s psychological study. The slow transformation of concern from food to other matters happens under diverse set of conditions for each of the child. These fictions are highly stimulating works about the lovable juveniles and provide great insight into their different aspects of life. Thus they become slowly the somber adults who are very much respected by society.
Burnett, Frances Hodgson. The Secret Garden. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987.
Fitzhugh, Louise. Harriet the Spy. New York: Yearling, 1964.
Maslow, Abraham Harold. “A Theory of Human Motivation.” Psychological Review, 50. 1943, 370-96.
Rollin, Lucy. “The Reproduction of Mothering in Charlotte’s Web.” Psychoanalytic responses to children’s literature. Jefferson: McFarland & Co., 1999, 53-63.
Shavit, Zohar. Poetics of Children’s Literature. London: The University of Georgia Press, 1986.
Solheim, Helene. “Magic in the Web: Time, Pigs, and E. B. White.” Critical Essays on E. B. White. New York: G. K. Hall, 1994, 144-57.
White, E. B. Charlotte’s Web. New York: HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 1952.