Take the 2-minute tour ×
Skeptics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for scientific skepticism. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Until the day he died, Maurice Sendak railed, somewhat playfully, against child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim for the psychologist's criticism of "Where the Wild Things Are":

"What's wrong with the book is that the author was obviously captivated by an adult psychological understanding of how to deal with destructive fantasies in the child. What he failed to understand is the incredible fear it evokes in the child to be sent to bed without supper, and this by the first and foremost giver of food and security—his mother."

Bettelheim goes on (as quoted in The New York Times):

“The basic anxiety of the child is desertion. To be sent to bed alone is one desertion, and without food is the second desertion.”

From a March 1969 Ladies' Home Journal column "The Care and Feeding of Monsters," reproduced in this book)

Since the book has come out, "Where the Wild Things Are" has won numerous prizes, including the Caldecott Medal, and Sendak has won the National Medal of Arts. His work is considered a national treasure. We now accept it as gospel that "Where the Wild Things Are" is a positive addition to a youngster's upbringing.

Certainly, "Where the Wild Things Are" is a fine piece of art, but did Maurice Sendak fail to comprehend how traumatizing the book could be? Is there any evidence that suggests Bettelheim was right?

share|improve this question

closed as not constructive by Oddthinking May 9 '12 at 1:04

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Imagine going to your ethics committee saying "I'd like to do a longitudinal study on a lot of kids where we randomly assign some to a 'repeatedly sent to bed alone and without supper' group to see if they grow up twisted and evil". –  dmckee May 8 '12 at 19:15
This site exists to confirm or debunk notable claims. What claim are you making? –  neilfein May 8 '12 at 21:10
I think the claim is that Where the Wild Things Are frightens children to a degree unappreciated by the author. It is a claim. I'm not sure it's a very meaningful claim. Even if it is meaningful, it's probably impossible to answer without interviewing the author, who passed away today. –  Flimzy May 8 '12 at 21:20
"I don't write for children," Sendak told Colbert. "I write, and then someone says, 'That's for children.'" –  jozzas May 8 '12 at 22:57
This question currently asks about what a person believed. We avoid those questions as unanswerable. Can we edit this into an answerable question? –  Oddthinking May 9 '12 at 1:08

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.