Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak is about Max, a young boy and his imaginary escape from his own reality back home. The book is told through Max’s point of view and uses sentences that bleed onto the other pages to get his point across. It appeals to a child’s unconscious desire for independence in decision making for themselves through the use of illustrations that complement the text and tap into young children’s emotions of anger, loneliness and their desire for a connection.
According to Molly Bang’s theory the illustration at the beginning of the story is centered on the page and takes up only a small portion of the page because it wants your undivided attention. This indicates that it is important but it also states that the child seems to be contained within the white borders of the page.
Max like other children may feel trapped within the confinements of what they can and cannot do, as their input most likely is not taken into consideration. However, when he begins to use his imagination, the illustrations slowly begins to bleed onto the page until it no longer is confined within the borders. This demonstrates how a child truly feels liberated and changes his/her perception of who they are and the world around them, when they believe to be in control.
In the beginning of the story Max is displaying attention seeking behavior. Young children seek attention from adults to feel appreciated. When children are not being acknowledged, they will find other ways to get noticed.
For example, Max was very obnoxious doing mischief after mischief, causing his mother to get frustrated with him. This ultimately caused Max to be punished and sent up to his room making him frustrated and angry. Max is furious that he’s not only confined to his mother’s rules but also confined to the four walls of his room. Although, he wants his mothers attention he may not truly understand why he behaved the way he did or that his behavior was unexceptionable.
Therefore, he turns to his imagination for comfort and travels through the ocean to a forest in which Wild Things live. Kristi Pikiewicz a psychologist states that when he tames the Wild Things and becomes their king, Max is actually mastering his own emotions. He is trying to understand what he feels and is working on a way to calm himself down. This is symbolized by the wild rumpus in which he commands the Wild Things to begin, as he joins in.
Nodelman’s theory about incomplete action is used in the wild rumpus which is important because it covers the entire pages. Sendak intentionally leaves out text because he is demonstrating the emotions of Max through the illustrations and wants the reader to visualize and complete Max’s actions.
In one set of two pages, he is seen screaming while stomping his feet underneath the full moon. Signifying his rage towards his mom and the confinement of her rules. As you turn the page the background becomes lighter signifying Max overcoming some of his anger, as he is now shown smiling and swinging from tree to tree.
He has let out most of his frustration. Finally, he is shown on one of the Wild Things, waving his scepter and wearing a crown proudly. This symbolizes his triumph over battling his emotions of anger and frustration. He is no longer upset with his mother and sends the Wild Things to sleep. Young children tend to live in the moment and are easily overcome with the emotions they have, in order to cope with their emotions children need an activity that can help lower the intensity of their emotions.
Max cools down from his emotions, and no longer wishes to be lost within his imagination; he begins to seek the comfort of his mother and her food. Although Max feels confined under his mother’s rules he understands that it is exactly what he needs. His room is no longer a small illustration confined to the white borders but instead extends beyond the page. Max has changed and grown through this experience.
Although the reader is allowed to follow Max’s battle with his emotions through the book, Sendak only lets us view the story through long shots. Therefore, according to Nodelman the reader is shown the relationship of Max with other objects and characters around him. This allows the reader to see that he feels more of a connection with the Wild Things, that are just figments of his imagination, than he does with his own mother.
Throughout the story the mother is never depicted in the illustrations, and she only speaks to send him to his room when he gets in trouble. This signifies that Max like some children are not able to express their feelings with their parents because most adults are not open about talking or expressing their emotions, especially, with boys. Consequently, Max seeks emotional comfort from the only place he can get it, knowing that he would be unsuccessful with his mother.
Where The Wild Things Are appeals to a child’s unconscious desire for independence in decision making for themselves. Sendak uses illustrations to complement the text and tap into young children’s emotions of anger, loneliness and their desire for a connection. It demonstrates young children’s emotions through the complexity of what is a child’s imagination.