LIT 4334: The Golden Age of Children's Literature

The Themes of Identity and Unconditional Love in The Adventures of Pinocchio

on February 6, 2013 5:50pm

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In The Adventures of Pinocchio, perhaps the most overt theme in entire text is that of lying. That is what most children remember or learn from having read The Adventures of Pinocchio. That being said, there are themes that are present in the text that are more important. Those themes are identity and unconditional love, and these are recurring throughout the text.

Identity is very multidimensional in this text, because Pinocchio goes through physical transformations throughout. In the very beginning, he was already talking when he was just a piece of wood with which Mastro Cherry was going to carve into a leg of a table. That’s when Pinocchio showed his first sign of ‘existence’ and this caused Mastro Cherry to give the piece of wood to his friend Geppetto, who becomes Pinocchio’s “father” because he decides to make a puppet out of the wood, thus animating and anthropomorphizing Pinocchio. This is essentially, the genesis of Pinocchio, and therefore the beginning of his quest to find his identity. Throughout the text, Pinocchio goes through arduous tasks and encounters many characters who use his foolishness and naivety to their advantage. An instance of this takes place when the Fox and the Cat trick him into planting his gold pieces into the ground to produce a money tree. He believes them, but for good reason because he was planning on helping out Geppetto with the reward, yet he is fooled and robbed of his money. He then is placed into jail because his stupidity made him complicit with the crime. Through every task he endures, he learns something more about himself and his desire to be a good boy deepens. He feels regretful for his past actions and ignorance. It is only after he completes the very selfless act of filling up hundreds and hundreds of water buckets in exchange for milk to aid his father in recovery that Pinocchio transforms into an actual boy, which was a great wish of his. This human-like metamorphosis solidifies Pinocchio’s journey for his identity.

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Unconditional love plays as great a role as does identity for the major themes of this text. Geppetto, while not biologically Pinocchio’s father, has a paternal type of unconditional love for Pinocchio. In the beginning of the text, Geppetto sells his coat for an alphabet book for Pinocchio to be able to go to school, even when the weather was very bad and he was cold. When Pinocchio asks Geppetto why he sold his coat, Geppetto replies, “It was too warm.” Geppetto is the embodiment of selflessness, and that eventually rubs off on Pinocchio. The Fairy provides Pinocchio with unconditional love because she acts as his Guardian Angel throughout the course of the text. She never berates Pinocchio for his shortcomings, yet she always encourages. She makes promises that she never breaks and strives to bring to fruition. She offers forgiveness for his old mischief, and rewards him with human life because he took care of his ill father, thus granting him with his greatest desire.

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2 responses to “The Themes of Identity and Unconditional Love in The Adventures of Pinocchio

  1. I really liked your interpretation of the theme of identity in the novel. To think about the story as a search for his true identity (that of a ‘real boy’) is a really cool way to think about it. Throughout the story, watching Gepetto and Pinocchio’s interactions was hard to read because Gepetto really does feel an unconditional love for him, and while Pinocchio claims to do the same, he frequently insults, abuses, and just generally mistreats him. As he gets farther in his quest to find an identity though, Pinocchio too finds himself truly capable of the unconditional love that his parent figures supply him with. It is only after Pinocchio proves a true, innocent love and concern for the fairy that he’s allowed to become a real boy as well. An interesting thought I wouldn’t have thought about on my own.

  2. You make some really great points, and I like how you teased out the themes of identity and unconditional love. However one thing that you might want to rephrase is at the beginning, you mention that the main thing children learn from reading Pinocchio is not to lie. However I think it’s interesting that, definitely when you see the film that’s pretty much the only thing that jumps out to kids, don’t lie. To be honest that’s the main thing I remember from the movie, because they really visually emphasized the lengthening of his nose in a repeated manner. However, it’s interesting that in the actually text there are many more morals laid out. For example, do not be manipulated, do not falling into traps, those seem to jump out to me more. I would be curious to see how kids relate to the text and what lessons they retain most. I know that my little brother listened to the unabridged audiobook a few years ago, and when he found out I was reading the book, he told me “I don’t think I really want to read that, Jess. I don’t like the fox and the cat…” Which makes me think that perhaps those scenes of manipulation are the ones that stuck with him more. So I just think that we should not assume that lying is the lesson that kids will retain from reading the text, even though that’s the one they will retain from the film.

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