LIT 4334: The Golden Age of Children's Literature

Parental Love in “Pinocchio”

on February 7, 2013 6:39am

Pinocchio misbehaves in every way conceivable for a nineteenth century Italian child: he runs away constantly, lies, and disobeys every command. Yet despite his persistent naughtiness and forgotten repentances, Pinocchio somehow manages to retain the unconditional love of both of his parental figures. Geppetto and the Blue Fairy save and forgive him for every misdeed, despite his repeated disobedience. Their perfect parental love strains belief, even for a fairy-tale-like story.

"I'm going to give up my whole life for you!"

“I’m going to give up my whole life for you!”

The Blue Fairy’s magical powers and angelic resurrection seem to explain her capacity for ceaseless love, but Geppetto is a poor, common man. Geppetto’s sacrificial love continues to strain belief especially after the reader considers the timeline of the tale. Geppetto carves Pinocchio, who immediately runs away and Geppetto is taken to jail. Geppetto returns the next day, forgetting his initial anger when he sees Pinocchio’s burned feet, and giving Pinocchio his pears. In what seems to be the same day, Geppetto sells his coat to buy Pinocchio a primer. The next day – two days after Pinocchio’s creation – Pinocchio runs off and begins his adventure that keeps him from Geppetto for two years.

"We hung out once two years ago - boo hoo hoo".

“We hung out one time two years ago – boo hoo hoo”.

Even disregarding Pinocchio’s odd genesis, Geppetto displays a remarkable amount of self-sacrifice for a creature he has only briefly known. He gives up his food and his coat, but also seems to have given up his temper. Geppetto gets in a scuffle in the second chapter, and is jailed in the third because the policeman believes Geppetto is “a perfect tyrant with children” and believes Geppetto will “tear [Pinocchio] to pieces” if left alone with him (17-18).

Fatherhood has transformed Geppetto. Here, Collodi represents parental love as totally innate – all that is required is the appearance of a child. Geppetto needs no experience, nor a wife, to immediately know what is best for Pinocchio.

Parenting is easy!

Parenting is easy!

Geppetto lovingly names him Pinocchio to “bring him good luck,” but the puppet begins abusing him before his body is even fully formed: “You are not even finished and you already disobey your father!” (13, 14). Nevertheless, he continues to care for Pinocchio, even later “patient[ly]” peeling the pears to teach Pinocchio a lesson about valuing food (33). Geppetto continues to maintain love of this caliber, formed over two days, for over two years of hardship and abandonment. Such a short time period, especially one full of abuse, does not seem enough to cultivate such longstanding affection. Collodi is therefore representing parental love as not only innate, but immediate: Geppetto’s love is fully formed upon Pinocchio’s creation, and requires no reinforcement from his child. Pinocchio may choose to please his father, but parental love will withstand the greatest abuse.

However, since Pinocchio was carved into being, Geppetto directly created him. In this sense, carving the puppet is closer to the construction of the child in the womb than the usual male involvement, making Geppetto’s parental role more maternal than paternal. The Blue Fairy claims Pinocchio as her own, but she has no real involvement in his creation. Geppetto’s journey throughout the book also seems more traditionally feminine – he is self-sacrificial, then abandoned, then suffers alone, but is finally rescued and cared for.

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2 responses to “Parental Love in “Pinocchio”

  1. Abigail Davis says:

    I agree with your assessment of Geppetto’s love for Pinocchio. To me his amount of love and forgiveness definitely exceeds what I’m willing to believe, especially since for the few days he knew Pinocchio the marionette was extremely rude and disobedient to him. The Blue Fairy I can at least understand some because she spent long drawn out periods with Pinocchio such as when he first visited her house and then later when they lived together near the seashore in the New World. She was able to build a relationship of sorts with him and for a short time he actually did obey her requests, such as going to school. Also the fairy seems to have the ability to watch over Pinocchio while he is out and about in the world. You see this when she informs Pinocchio that she saw his tears of grief over her false tomb stone. With that to consider it does make a sort of sense that she would have such great affection for Pinocchio. She has seen his trials in the world and while she saw many of his instances of disobedience she also saw his moments of redemption. For instance, while she may have viewed Pinocchio taking his gold coins to the Field of Wonders instead of taking them home to Geppetto she also would have seen that he was doing it so he and Geppetto would have real wealth and so that he could buy his father a new coat. In that case her love is easier for me to understand but Geppetto’s devotion still escapes me. After all, he first constructed Pinocchio to earn him money, not to be his child as the Disney version would have the viewer believe. And it cannot just be the fact that Pinocchio is a singular oddity of a living puppet that causes Geppetto to suddenly love him as a child since Pinocchio’s adventures at the Puppet Theater show that living marionettes are a part of society. Unless Geppetto has had an unseen revelation that he is alone in the world and this is what causes him to adopt Pinocchio as a son rather than a servant I cannot understand the depth of his love for Pinocchio.

  2. broatchlit says:

    A very insightful post about Geppetto’s love for Pinocchio and you do point out some very good points of the parental figures illustrated in this story. When it comes to Geppetto as a father figure, I would agree 100% with your assessment considering how much the poor man had to sacrifice to protect his wooden boy. Undoubtedly, most readers would argue that Geppetto did not deserve to be cursed with such misfortune when he created Pinocchio, but usually with sacrifice comes reward.

    Geppetto is described as a poor, old man who hates little boys which makes one wonder why he makes sacrifices for such an ungrateful, puppet child like Pinocchio. Well, his initial purpose for Pinocchio was to use the puppet boy as a tool to make him money. Therefore, it can be inferred that Geppetto was inadvertently punished for his first choice of planning to use Pinocchio as a form of slave or servant that would make him money. It is when Geppetto actually starts taking the role of a parent that he somewhat receives his wish, although towards the end of the story.

    In addition, Geppetto gives up many things for Pinocchio and never once abandons or gives up on him. His actions start reflecting the struggles a loving and caring parent goes through to raise their children. Not only does he sacrifice material objects for his ‘son,’ but he takes on the burden of going to jail without even blaming Pinocchio for his misfortunes. There is no doubt that although Geppetto did not originally want to raise a child, he was practically forced to gain a sense of responsibility and did his best to overcome several obstacles to take care of Pinocchio. Thus, as Pinocchio’s character develops over the story, Geppetto also develops to become more accepting of the puppet and even welcomes him into his life when Pinocchio finally becomes a real boy.

    One could say that many fairy tale characters have to go through hardships to be rewarded in the end; Geppetto is one of many characters who had to sacrifice things for his son and receive a rewarding ending. When Geppetto was ill, Pinocchio took on the responsibility of taking care of his father by working at a farm. The Adventures of Pinocchio may possibly make a direct connection to the life of parents and their children. As time progresses, the children become more independent and start looking after their parents. In the story, the roles become somewhat reversed in which Geppetto was eventually dependant on Pinocchio and was rewarded with an independent and diligent son who worked hard to help his father.

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