4 children’s books that are more serious than you expect


Maybe you read these books and enjoyed them in your childhood, but it is a well-known fact that every literary creation offers the possibility of having a more profound interpretation of its content, besides the one that is given by the literal meaning. It is not uncommon to see that history has changed the readers of a particular work and therefore, to observe that books that now are for children were actually intended for a more mature audience. Many literary works that are read by children are essentially political and social satires, allegories, descriptions of blameworthy realities or they may even have metaphysical implications.   


Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift  

source: https://www.amazon.com/

Published in 1726, “Gulliver’s travels” represents the first example. Despite its comic situations and its fantastic dimension, Swift’s work is actually a harsh political and social satire. The protagonist’s adventures serve the role of criticizing diverse realities and manners common to the 1700s.  

Each kingdom, Brobdingnag, Balnibarbri, Luggnagg, etc. reflects certain problems. Therefore, Gulliver’s first shipwreck condemns one of the most frequent and inauspicious human flaws i.e. vanity. It also shows how our thinking can sometimes lack any reason. The conflict that exits between Lilliputians and Blefuscudians embodies the aversion between the two political factions in England – Tories and Whigs, symbolized also by the height of their heels. (High Heels – Tory, Short Heels – Whig). Protestantism and Catholicism are satirized in a comic manner in the dispute concerning which part of the egg should be cracked first.  

But Swift also condemns the selfish attitude and the action of exploiting others for the benefit of a specific group when he describes the relations between Laputa and Balnibarbi.  

Exaggerating the power of reason doesn’t escape the satire and the Academy of Lagado, where the scientists conduct absurd experiments, such as trying to obtain sunbeams out of cucumbers, is used in order to ridicule this act. 

There are many problematics that are addressed in “Gulliver’s Travels”, but we are not going to reveal all of them because we would like to spark your curiosity to find them. One last information about this literary work is that if we adopt a post-colonialist perspective, the relation between Houyhnhnms and Yahoos can typify the relation between the Colonists and the Colonised. Also, Gulliver in the land of Houyhnhnms can embody the human being torn between the two worlds – the one of the colonists and the one of the colonised people, a hybrid, an individual who assimilated a number of habits that were imposed by the colonists but without being completely accepted by them, and who still keeps inside of him particular traits that are specific to his origin.  


Moby Dick – Herman Melville  


Painting made by Titică Iasmina-Valeria

Moby Dick is considered one of the masterpieces of American literature. What sets it apart from the rest is its rich intertextuality that allows a wide range of interpretations.  

Captain Ahab’s stubbornness of catching and killing the white whale, that he considers an abomination of nature can be seen as the logical consequence of Transcendentalism. In a very few words, Transcendentalism was a school of thought that was part of the effort to  give America a distinctive identity. It drew a lot from the Romantic ideas and its key figure was Emerson. For transcendentalists, intuition was essential, and nature offered everything – from concrete things to transcendental truths, signs are everywhere and are waiting to be read.  

Captain Ahab is convinced that he serves an important mission of purifying the world from the vile creature (the whale). He sees signs and he gives them his interpretation, without a moment of doubt, but unknowingly he commits a Hybris which leads to his tragic death. Just like Prometheus he transgresses the accepted limits of his human condition. 

There are also many religious references in the novel which have their own role in construction of the metaphysical level of interpretation.  


Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain 


source: https://www.amazon.com/

Another example of books that are read by children but were intended for a more mature audience is the novel “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”.

Mark Twain’s novel explores a few problematics, such as slavery, freedom, the opposition between the North and the South and also highlights the theory according to which society with its dogma corrupts the human being, who is innately good. Society erodes its system of values and natural moral principles. The tension between the dogma and the natural morality can be easily observed in the relationship between Huck and Jim. 


Robinson Crusoe – Daniel Defoe  


source: https://www.amazon.com/

“Robison Crusoe” is one the first English novels and had as aim to trigger the fascination of its readers for traveling and for everything that is exotic and new. The novel appears in the period of great interest regarding the geographical exploration.  


These are only four examples of books that are read by children and have a profound interpretation. Hope you have enjoyed this article!


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