Maurice sendak's trilogy: Disappointment, fury, and their transformation through art

Richard M. Gottlieb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


An overlooked yet central developmental theme of Maurice Sendak 's major works is that of resilience. Resilience reflects a child's capacity to transform otherwise crippling traumatic circumstances into his (or her) very means of survival, growth, and positive maturation. An im- plicit credo of these works is the adage: "What doesn 't kill me makes me stronger." The embedded rhetoric of three of Sendak s most important books "argues" that it is by means of a poetic function, of creative imagin- ing, and ultimately through art itself, that children may overcome the traumatic circumstances omnipresent during development. The most traumatic circumstances-according to Sendak-are the rages chil- dren feel toward the very persons whom they love and depend upon, rages that threaten to disorganize themselves and disrupt vital sus- taining relationships. Sendak has said that he is obsessed with one and only one question: "How do children survive?" His answer, en- gagingly expressed in his trilogy of Where the Wild Things Are, In the Night Kitchen, and Outside Over There, is that children sur- vive by their exercise of creative imagination, of reverie, dream, poetry, music, and exquisite visual representation. Art was Sendak's means of "recovery "from his own childhood; his published works represent his gift to all children.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)186-217
Number of pages32
JournalPsychoanalytic Study of the Child
StatePublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes


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