`` High Fantasy, Rites Of Passage And Cultural Value `` By Jean Murray Walker

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Suspending Dis-belief! In 1992, Jean Murray Walker, in her essay, “High Fantasy, Rites of Passage and Cultural Value”, wrote that “children growing up in American Society experience everywhere around them the collision of powerful interests and values. Even though they may be nurtured within a family structure, chances are they are NOT indoctrinated into a clearly defined community of values.” (Walker 109) Instead, “materialism prevails, and popular fantasy - in which good (us!) prevails against evil (them!) - is standard fare.” However, Walker contends, and I agree, that “the best fantasy provides something more, and presents complex and clearly defined values, not vacant symbols of of the powerful versus the powerless.” (Walker,…show more content…
(Chappell 22) While Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book takes a different approach and delves into what is, by all accounts, unknown and unseen; it more than raises the question of what happens when one dies and explores the physical world as well as the supernatural. Upon her death, Bod’s mother entrusts her son, a mortal being, not to other living beings, but to those who have already gone before her - those with the wisdom to raise him well. With various cautions along the way, Bod is kept safe until he learns what he needs to learn to exist as a force for good in the world. Through disobedience or excess curiosity, Bod sometimes finds himself in perilous situations along the way. Thoughout the story we are reminded that life indeed is fragile; but death, for most, is not to be feared. The story explores the existence of other spiritual beings who watch over us (the Hounds of God) and well as some of the bad guys who once held places of honor in the current physical world. Indeed, the dance of the macabre demonstrates that death is much closer than we think by it’s inevitability and we would do well to consider the consequences of our actions. In considering Bettleheim’s reflections on the child reader, I agree that most fantasy allows the reader to explore his/her own feelings about “others” and/or the unknown from a safe vantage point. As Karen Coats reflects in her essay, “Between Horror, Human and Hope, Neil Gaiman and the Psychic Work of

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