Essay about Children’s Literature in Jamaica

4155 Words 17 Pages
Children’s Literature in Jamaica

As children in the United States, we grow up listening to the stories of Dr. Seuss and Curious George as we fall off to sleep to the sound of our parent’s voices echoing in our dreams. As we start to grow older and the poetry of Shel Silverstein’s, "Where the Sidewalk Ends" no longer holds our imagination as much as it did at eight years old, we begin to read stories that are a reflection of the environment we live within. We engaged ourselves in the lives of such characters as the Hardy Boys and Willy Wonka.

What these stories lacked however, are the social issues that are ever present in today’s society. Not all of American children’s literature is without social content, but the literature many of
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Children’s folklore and literature thrives in the stories of Anancy. Anancy is an indestructible and irresistible spider who is both, "fooler and fool, maker and unmade, wily and stupid, subtle and gross, the High God’s accomplice and his rival." (Dance, 11) Anancy is generally a figure of admiration whose cunning and scheming nature reflects the indirection and subtleties necessary for survival and occasionally victory for the Black man in a racist society.

In Jamaica, Anancy, the descendant of a West African deity takes on special significance in a society, which has its roots in a system of slavery. It is as though every slave strove to be Anancy and he who achieved the Spider-form became a kind of hero. Anancy’s greatest attributes however, are his character flaws. Anancy is far from a perfect folk hero, and many of his characteristics are egotistical, selfish, and ignorant. Regardless of the wealth of character flaws he possesses, Anancy has an irresistibility that has been preserved in its most uncorrupted form. As Rex Nettleford states in his introduction to Walter Jekyll’s, Jamaican Song and Story, "in order to cope with an unstraight and crooked world one needs unstraight and crooked paths." (Jekyll, xiii) As a child, playwright and author, Louise Bennett recalls that "everything that happened in the world was caused by Anancy." (Jekyll, ix) As a…