In creating Martha Moody, the children’s book icon, the hero who can fight anyone and do anything, Amanda is writing into existence a new mythology that pulls from existing mythology. Amanda, as someone raised to be biblical and god-fearing, knows the stories of the bible as well as anyone; at times they become the rocks she uses to support herself. As she begins her path away from being the Highly Christian Good Wife, she doesn’t stray away from the biblical stories, only the teachings that contradict her desires. The stories remain the rock which gives inspiration to the adventures of Martha Moody.
When I first imagined the stories of Martha Moody I couldn’t help but think back to my own experiences of reading Calvin and Hobbes. At face value, they seem like incredibly different types of stories, and as we only read parts of Martha Moody (whatever Amanda has just written), it’s hard to know exactly how the stories read to the children buying them. If nothing else, Martha Moody is all print, and Calvin and Hobbes is a comic. However, the substance of the stories share similarities.
Martha Moody is a wild and adventurous woman, who’s unapologetically female and fat, and she’s respected as a whole being, not despite her physical appearance. She has Azreal, her angelic cow who protects her and stands by her. Calvin is a young boy and Hobbes is his stuffed tiger who accompanies him on all the trouble and mischief he gets into. Hobbes isn’t godly or all-powerful like Azreal, but he is highly philosophical and often is a voice of logic (if not reason) for Calvin.
The stories are not the same – Calvin “transmogrifying” himself into a tiny dinosaur, or creating an evil twin are less dramatic than the stories Martha Moody gets into. Amanda wrote Martha Moody into whatever situation she was feeling Real Martha deserved at the time, and as such some are far less nice to Martha than anything Calvin goes through.
I think the place where I connect Calvin and Martha is the relatability. When I read Calvin and Hobbes as a young child, I was obsessed because I saw a version of myself. I saw this young child with a huge imagination and a desire to play with his tiger and create his own world, where a cardboard box has a thousand uses. He didn’t want to play with other kids who cared about organized sports and he would rather fight an army of killer mutant snowmen than do his math homework. I felt a similarity between myself and Calvin (and later in life, Hobbes), and I can only imagine the impact it would have if the stories I read included a big girl, with big red hair, instead of a little boy.
2 thoughts on “The importance of Martha Moody and childhood”
You have so wonderfully demonstrated the importance of stories like Amanda’s writings. I know we touched on this in class but this expansion on that idea is wonderful. Having also grown up reading “Calvin and Hobbes” I do remember identifying more with him than many of the female protagonists of my childhood books and movies. The only girls I remember identifying with before reaching YA novels were the Penderwick sisters. I remember how beautiful it was to read about Skye, who loved math and science and getting into trouble, and Jane Penderwick, who wrote and envisioned great adventures and dramas. The four sisters together all acted as a Martha Moody for my childhood. But like you, I wonder why I never had those characters earlier. Seeing ourselves in what we read is so powerful, and it goes unrecognized until we become aware of its absence.
Your last comment, on what it would have been like if you had grown up on stories of big girls with red hair, instead of little boys, rings so true in so many different ways. I didn’t grow up with any stories of people who looked like me to relate to. Little girls were given books about little boys and if a little girl appeared in the story she rarely was as important or powerful as the little boy. What kind of message does this send to every child, regardless of gender, about what is normal. In the few stories about little girls, they were always pretty and skinny and kind. They were not powerful. They were certainly not fat, as if fat was a negative thing. But fat isn’t a bad thing, it just is. Its just our bodies. We just are.
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