By Maurice Sendak
The tale of Bumble-Ardy, written by Maurice Sendak (Where the Wild Things Are) is about a neglected eight turning nine year old pig, who had never had a birthday party. This all changed when his parents had gorged themselves to their death and his aunt Adeline adopted him. Aunt Adeline gives Bumble-Ardy a cake and a present and goes to work. Bumble-Ardy then decides to throw himself his own party without telling his aunt. The party gets out of hand and, when Adeline comes home early from work, she ends the party sternly. In the end, Aunt Adeline and Bumble-Ardy make up and he learns lessons of love, friendship, and trust.
Guidelines for Philosophical Discussion
By Alarissa Haak
This story deals with a variety of relationship issues through a child, in this case a pig, and his parental figures. Sendak also delves into the issues of love, trust, guilt and forgiveness. This is Sendak`s first book that he has written in 30 years and in this interview he describes the influences he had on writing this book.
Before you start discussing the themes of the story, make sure you discuss what the traditional words of swine and brine refer to. Swine refers to pigs in this story, not what the group may confuse it with, the influenza that was prominent in the past couple of years. Explain that the word brine means preserved vegetables, meat, and fish; it is similar to marinating a piece of food.
Sendak demonstrates the two different styles of relationships between a parent and their child, He contrasts neglect and unconditional love and their influence. The story questions what happens when socially normal parental obligations are disregarded. The facilitator can ask questions about what is the best type of childhood and what parents should do for their children. When, if ever, does a child deserve to be ignored? Is to be ignored or indulgence a better parenting style? Is there ever a time that ignoring a child would be beneficial, like the time out chair? From this type of ignorance, does the child learn anything? Note that with this topic as the facilitator the issue of being ignore is not permanent or long lasting, but are there any situations that this is acceptable The discussion can lead to a asking what type of relationship is best between parent and child.
Intertwined with the issue of parenting style, Sendak deals with the issue of love and how it relates to forgiveness, trust and guilt. The facilitator can ask what is love and have the group try and come up with a definition of love, particularly the love between a parent and child.The discussion can move on to how love should be shown and the group can generate examples of their own experiences about how their parents, guardian or family member have shown love to them.With my experience the students will understand the concept of a family love style, however not a romantic style.Have they ever loved someone more than their family members? How was it different? The whole issue of love and parents and families are obviously huge issues and could occupy an entire discussion in and of themselves.
The issues of trust between a parent and child and even strangers are dealt with in this book. The group can examine the things that create trust amongst people in general and also specifically between parent and child. Through this story we are presented with two scenarios of trust, Adeline’s unconditional trust and Bumble’s ignorance of the power of trust. Remember that trust in relation to parents/guardians is perceived as unconditional but should you always trust a parent? Why do people trust their family? It is advisable to discuss the other side of parent-child trust, the parent’s view. Do the students think a parent should always trust their child? Adeline trusted Bumble enough to let him be by himself, and he throws a party, does that coincide with the ability to trust children. The group discussion should progress to the extent of trust in relation to parents and children, how much trust put into each other and whether trust can be earned.
Along with love and trust comes guilt. Guilt will often show up when someone disappoints a loved one with their actions. The facilitator can ask what makes someone feel guilty, especially when is involves a breach of trust as was seen in Bumble-Ardy’s infringement of Adeline’s trust and when Bumble allows strangers to abuse Aunt Adeline’s house and “drink her brine”. Sendak illustrates how in any true mistake, guilt can become prevalent afterwards, which you can determine with the students with the question, Did Bumble feel guilty?How? Is guilt just an emotion? After defining what guilt is, present the question can guilt be a good thing? Remember that guilt is usually perceived with a negative connotation, so by having the group reflect on their own experiences will be imperative with discovering a positive aspect of guilt. For those that drank her brine, why would they not feel guilty? The goal of these questions are to determine what the importance of guilt is, and why there is always a negative connotation to guilt.
Finally, after the issues of trust, guilt and love are discussed, the facilitator has a final issue to deal with. That issue is forgiveness. This topic could range from what is forgiveness to when should someone forgive another, if at all. The group could then look at the relationship of trust and when a breach of trust should be forgiven. In the book, Adeline forgave Bumble Ardy completely. Why would Adeline forgive Bumble so easy? Is it easier to forgive someone that you love? In examining this question, the group will presumably agree that it is easier to forgive someone you love. So to follow this question, ask the question when can it be harder to forgive someone you love? Once an common ground is found when it is harder, imply when can it be both easier and harder to forgive someone you love?
This book is an abstract book with great illustrations that will have the kids entertained while reading it, and have their mind racing because forgiveness and love are a common wonder in today’s world. This narrative demonstrates the power of unconditional love, with a more realistic character, a character that makes mistakes. It demonstrates that even though you make mistakes and there will be consequences, such as guilt, you will be forgiven, and learn from these mistakes.
Questions for Philosophical Discussion
So Adeline, that aunt divine, adopted Bumble when he was nine
Do you love me like I love you?
Adeline … just hated swine to drink her brine, not even days so fine as Bumble’s birthday number nine. So he simply didn’t tell her.
I promise! I swear! I won't ever turn ten!
So Adeline, that aunt divine, took in her Bumble valentine, and kissed him nine times over nine