Rachel's Blog: Parentless Progeny

Sat, 13 Mar 2004

FIrst, you kill the oldies Karl Quinn has clearly not read a children's book in a while. The absence of parents is a key ingredient in stories dating back to the year dot: Cinderella - dead mum, absent dad; Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - dead dad, preoccupied mum (and rightly so with four bedridden relatives in addition to her son); Mary in The Secret Garden loses her parents early in the story to cholera; Oliver Twist too, orphaned.

Roald Dahl knew this technique well. In addition to Charlie, James' parents are eaten on the first page by an escaped rhinocerous (James and the Giant Peach), Matilda's olds were criminally neglectful (Matilda) and Luke's died in a car accident (The Witches).

It is not an "alarming trend", but a way in which children can safely explore the world. By using their imaginations and fantasising about a life where there are no parents to look out for them kids can practise survival techniques and gain confidence for a time when their parents may not be around. Even if this doesn't occur until they leave home at 25.

And Dorothy's parents were dead too, Quinn. "Auntie Em! Auntie Em!" (The Wizard of Oz)