Manlove defines fantasy as ‘a literary genre in which non-rational or magical phenomena play a significant part’ (Manlove, 1975, 1). Following this definition, The Cuckoo clock would be classified as a fantasy by several elements in the story. To begin with, the story is based on the classic idea of a child communicating with animals or objects. In this case, that object would be the wooden cuckoo coming out of the clock. This idea itself is quite a common subject matter for children’s literature.
For example in Little Princess, the little girl says that ‘little dolls come alive when we’re absent, and they run back to their original place before we see in order to keep their powers a secret’ (Burnett, 1905, 28). This was a good way for many lonely children, who often had to spend time by themselves, to make imaginative friends. Moreover throughout the novel, Griselda travels beyond time and space with the cuckoo. The author creates unique fantasy stages such as the butterfly land, other side of the moon, or the country of the nodding mandarins, and then sends little Griselda and the cuckoo into that world.
The unique way of The Cuckoo Clock is that Mrs. Molesworth depicts this fantasy world realistically and explains the concept logically, making it more believable. For instance, there is a scene where the cuckoo asks Griselda to sit with him in the clock. When Griselda argues that she is too big to fit in the clock, the cuckoo says ‘ Being big or small is all a matter of fancy, and the world and everything in it was all made little enough to go into a walnut. ’ (Mrs. Molesworth, 1931, 49).
This shows the imagination of the author, saying that everything could be in a way you want it to be, making a fascinating story for a child and also motivates their imagination. The cuckoo clock can also be defined as a typical didactic text, even though it has certain elements of fantasy. There is a reason the author chose cuckoo as a friend of Griselda. First of all, the cuckoo represents ‘punctuality and the faithful discharge of its duty’ (Mrs. Molesworth, 15). Griselda’s old aunts often tell Griselda to respect the cuckoo, which never missed to pop out every hour for fifty years or more.
The cuckoo sets a good example for Griselda, who is just like the other children at that age. In addition, a cuckoo clock was an essential furniture in the child’s room in 1800s. Therefore by making the object which were close to the children’s everyday life come to life and nag the child, it gave the idea to the children that even when they are alone in their room they should act properly. The author preaches by borrowing the cuckoo’s mouth, therefore the cuckoo is closer to an advisor than merely a friend to Griselda.
He repeats that Griselda has a great deal to learn, nags Griselda to kill her temper, be exact in her statements, and act politely. The lesson he mostly emphasizes is to ‘obey present orders’. That is the way the parents want their children to act. However, only because it is spoken by a magical cuckoo, the child doesn’t really rejects to it. The other feature of the cuckoo is that he never clarifies what he is trying to say. Griselda is often puzzled because the cuckoo frequently talks in a riddle, and this provokes Griselda to find the answer by herself.
This makes the child who is reading the text put their head together with Griselda to make their own interpretation of a situation. The fact that Griselda is a realistic and flawed girl also magnifies the didactic effect of the story. Griselda is just a normal girl at the start of the novel; she doesn’t want to do her studies, has short-temper, and just wants to play. However, she changes during the novel and this makes children to think that they could change into a kind and polite child as she did.
Parents don’t want a child who is only troublesome, but neither do they want a child too mature or flawless. Griselda is just in the middle of these two features, she has flaws but she is willing to fix it. This is the exact figure the parents would want from their child, and the author shows this to the children by Griselda. The story is the narrated by a classic third-person omniscient narrator. However, the important feature is that the narrator often intrudes into the text, commenting her own thoughts about the situation.
Instead of explaining the situation or adding information like the author who created the story, the narrator sympathizes with the reader like a friend. She says that ‘she can’t remember the name of Griselda’s teacher’ (Mrs. Molesworth18) or ‘she can’t understand proving neither like little Griselda’ (19). She never affirms how Griselda would have felt or thought but speaks as if she just supposes how the situation might have been. This makes the story more real, since the narrator seems to simply pass down a story, not creating a story by herself.
The narrator invites the child into the story, by asking questions and leading participation. By this manner of narration, it is easy to imagine an adult kneeling down next to the child, and reading the book to the child. If the parent actually read the book to the children, they would match the implied narrator the child might have postulated in their mind. One difficulty I experienced reading this book was because of the way the author delivers her lessons to the readers throughout the novel. Mrs.
Molesworth grew up reading the didactic tales, and she wrote her books when children’s literature had only one intention: to make them a better person. Alison Laurie described the characteristics of the children literature in 1800s in her critics that ‘they tend to have a conservative moral, and under their charm and invention is usually an improving lesson that adults know best’ (Alison, 1984, 20). Mrs. Molesworth didn’t really make an attempt to discard the tradition, and while I was reading The cuckoo clock, I couldn’t get rid of the feeling that the author was trying to scold me.
Attributed to these features, many readers feel that the book is a cliche children’s book, only trying to preach the children even though it has some magnificent stories originated from the author’s unique fantasy. Since nowadays many people regard children literature as an independent genre of literature, than another way of education for the children. Therefore, the direct style of the author trying to create an instructive tale for a child can feel unnatural. On the other hand, the novel still appeals to the readers because of one unchangeable fact; that children don’t change.
Children from 150 years ago still wanted to play, imagine, and make stories just like they do now. Children literature written in the present or the past both shows the author’s affection and comprehension for the children who always want to play and need a friend to spend time together. The cuckoo Clock is basically about how children solve the problem when they lack time to play, have too much responsibility, and need a true friend. Griselda is sent to her old aunts, she is very lonely sometime can’t understand her old-fashioned aunts. This is why she finds the cuckoo as her friend, and numerous stories started from this idea. Conclusively,
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