LIT 4334: The Golden Age of Children's Literature

winnie the pooh: character development

on April 18, 2013 1:45pm

As we discussed in class on Tuesday, one of the things that makes Winnie the Pooh so universally appealing is its potential for identification with the characters. Each of the main players in A.A. Milne’s vignettes is distinctly different from the others; while certain characters share certain traits, they are, for the most part, each very singular. Milne does a great job of flushing these differences out, even including favorite foods, favorite activities, and catch phrases for each of the animals. Likely, such distinct personalities have led, in part, to the conclusions drawn by some regarding the “disordered” natures thereof; however, it is likely that any personality, when taken to an extreme, can be linked to some type of disorder.

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With such clear and vivid character definition, it is easy – and extremely appealing – for readers to choose “their” character; an animal with which they identify the most, and is a hyperbolic (and animal) version of themselves. For me, that character is Piglet: small body, big heart, scared of loud noises and the dark. Piglet is a favorite for many, owing in part likely to his aesthetic appeal (small, all in pink, chic striped tunic) and in part to his unfailing kindness and desire to help others.

However, while Piglet appeals to me (and to many) for personal reasons, I also think that some of the most poignant moments in the text (and, relatedly, some of the most oft-quoted) are ones that he and Pooh share together. For example, one of my favorite moments – and one that i feel stands alone, even without the rest of the story) is when Piglet and Pooh have just finished with the great flood. As they are walking together, this exchange occurs:

“Pooh?”
“Yes, Piglet?”
“Nothing,” said Piglet, sidling up to Pooh from behind. “I just wanted to be sure of you.”

This moment is a perfect microcosm of the universality that makes Winnie the Pooh so great, and so classic. We can all identify with these sentiments, even though we are not stuffed animals and do not live in the woods. We relate.

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One response to “winnie the pooh: character development

  1. bkfining says:

    The conversation between Pooh and Piglet that you mentioned above is one of my favorite exchanges in the Hundred Acre Wood. Oftentimes, I feel that I love the relationships among the characters even more so than I love the individual characters in the Pooh books.

    Growing up as an only child for the first eight years of my life, I easily identified with Christopher Robin and loved how he was able to conjure all of these close friends even though he didn’t have any siblings. They made up their own motley family unit. These books are great for only children or children who just feel like they just don’t fit in.

    Like you said, the characters in these stories continue to appeal because they are so identifiable. Rather than looking at each hyperbolic personality, though, and identifying with one, I think that these characters are so relatable, because everyone can relate to every character at one point or another. Everyone has had a bout of Roo-esque enthusiasm, Piglet-esque anxiety, etc. at one point or another. Yet, despite their stark differences, the characters manage to maintain not just friendships, but, in my opinion, some of the most profound friendships depicted in children’s literature. I think that here Milne teaches children important lessons about accepting those that are different from us, whether by personality or appearance, because in the end all of us are really complex, and that needs to be recognized in order to have friendships like those found in the Hundred Acre Wood.

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