Monday, November 22, 2010

Gingerbread Houses

Robert Coover's "Gingerbread House" caught my eye because its title seemed so festive (I'm thoroughly embracing the commercialistic urges to celebrate the holiday season as much as possible). However, this poem is far from a happy holiday tale of sugarplums and Santa's elves. In this work, a young girl and boy follow an unhappy old man into the forest, knowing that he leads them to a fabled house where many children journey, but from which none return. Along the way, the boy surreptitiously drops breadcrumbs on the path, hoping to outsmart the aged guide and be the first to see the wondrous house and live to tell about it. During the journey, the children sing, perhaps to calm themselves down, perhaps because youth is simply that carefree. I know that I was not that easy-going in my youth, but then again, I am a rather uptight person.
A shift in the poem occurs when a witch, dressed in black rags appears. She attacks a dove and rips its heart from its chest, holding the beating, bloody organ in her hands. Somehow, this gore is attractive to both the old man and the young boy. The rest of the poem ricochets between the old man's care and protective instincts over the children and his wishes for their good dreams and his lust for the red heart, also symbolized by the ruby heart-shaped door of the witch's delectable abode.
I was rather confused by this text, but I did manage to draw a few possible connections from it. The journey into the woods, complete with the happy-go-lucky attitude of the girl, the seemingly kind, yet grim guide, and the boy's attempts to outwit fate, represent each person's trek through this perilous world. The witch is all that is evil in our lives-lies, lust, envy, greed, all our sins. Her unbelievably delicious house is the ultimate temptation. This take on the Hansel and Gretel story is also the story of the human plight. To resist or give into temptation and accept the consequences.

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