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?