The tale of a small, mischievous boy named Max, who wears a wolf’s costume as he chases the family dog with a fork, his subsequent banishment by his mother to his room, where, from the magic of his imagination, a wild forest appears and out from nowhere a boat emerges in which Max sails across a vast ocean for almost a year “to where the wild things are,” sums up what the story is about. It’s entitled Where The Wild Things Are.
Monsters inhabit the Land of Wild Things. The monsters names are Aaron, Bernard, Emil, Moishe and Tzippy. Although ferocious beyond belief, Max subdues them “with the magic trick of staring into all their yellow eyes at once.” Max is now the King of the Wild Things. After a night of wild partying, called “the wild rumpus,” which is doing whatever you want, Max becomes homesick and lonely and wants to be “where someone loved him best of all.”
Max sails, for almost a year, back home. There in his room he finds his supper waiting for him “and it was still hot.”
The book became an instant bestseller, winning numerous awards and accolades, and was written and illustrated by Maurice Bernard Sendak. His affinity for depicting dark fantasy in his stories resulted in some of his books being censored and even banned. In a word, he is controversial. But his stories are realistic and mirror the nightmares and phantasms of children whose imaginations have either escaped the trap of parental bigotry, or have yet to be unceremoniously squelched.
Sendak’s artistic influences include William Blake, Antoine Watteau and Francisco Goya, which explains the strife. All three were considered madmen by the lumpenproletariat, the rigid Pharisees around them. A madman is anyone who fails to succumb to societal and cultural standards of mediocrity. Such people are declared ‘mad’ by those manifesting the very human fear of being human. The impulse of imagination is the serpent in the pathetic paradise of common sense and blah normality.
Where The Wild Things Are exposes two universal facets of all mankind: the desire to do what we want to do and the even more powerful desire to be where someone loves us best of all. In fact, the latter desire is so powerful that most human beings don’t realize how strong it really is.