Oedipus was a stranger to the city. He killed the wicked king and married his widow. At the time, he didn’t know that the king was actually his father, and his new wife was actually his own mother- he doesn’t find out until the end of the story, when he is suitably horrified at what he had done. So I never understood why an extraordinary close mother-son relationship is called oedipal- the original Oedipus and his wife/mother Jocasta do not actually know they were mother and son at the time of their marriage, and throughout their life together.
What has this to do, you may ask, with very prolific and right-on Canadian kiddies author, Robert Munsch?
Robert Munsch writes story books which have glaring, obvious, middle-class morals: sharing is good! make-up is bad! and so on. Teachers and librarians love him, children less so. He is the Canadian equivalent of our ethics and religious school texts, with the goddy bits mostly left out.
So I was leafing through this Munsch book called “Love You forever” : the story of a nameless mother and son. The first page shows the young mother cradling her baby, exclaiming that he is her baby, and she will love him, for ever and ever. The story is simple: the child grows older, behaving badly (flushing his mommy’s watch down the toilet at the age of two, partying with his friends as a teenager), but every night, after he is asleep, the mother comes to his bedroom, hugs her sleeping child and tells him he is her baby, and she will love him, forever and ever.
The oedipal climax of the story comes when the son has become a grown man, and moved away. Every night the mother, who now has white hair, drives across town, with a ladder on the top of her car (picture of her car at night with the ladder). She climbs the walls of her son’s house, enters his bedroom by the window, hugs her sleeping man-child (illustrated with a picture of an old lady sitting by the bed, a grown sleeping man in her arms, his long arms and legs dangling), and tells him he is her baby, and she will love him forever and ever.
Eeeeewwww!!! A feeling of watching some sick horror film crept over me as I read this simple child’s book. Is this just me, or isn’t this icky, isn’t there something a bit not quite right with this story, as a children’s story? Is this supposed to be an example of virtuous mother love, which all good Canadians should aspire to? Talk about Psycho!
And people accuse me of spoiling the golden boy.