Gorey- The Vinegar Works

The cover page for The Vinegar Works says that the stories contained inside are “Three Volumes of Moral Instruction”. When thinking about children’s books, many stories have a moral and aim to teach children a specific life lesson. Usually, these morals are constructive, such as the one found at the end of The Tortoise and the Hare or The Boy Who Cried Wolf. In The Gashlycrumb Tinies, instead of outlining a story and ending with a lesson, Gorey goes through the alphabet and describes how different children died. While one could argue that children need to be aware of dangerous objects in the environment, people generally do not alert children to these dangers by describing how deadly they are. Instead of giving a gentle warning, Gorey uses the worst case scenario of death as a guide for what can happen to unsuspecting children.

The Insect God plays with the idea of child abduction and although it isn’t a story that is necessarily fit to read to children, it does address a topic that is often discussed with children. Children are taught from an early age not to get into the car of a stranger. In the story, young Millicent makes this mistake and ends up being sacrificed by insects. This story follows the more traditional outline used to teach children lessons, but it does so in a very dark manner.

One Reply to “Gorey- The Vinegar Works”

  1. I think an interesting question this leads to is : is there a line of “appropriateness” for children.  Are there things that literature should not discuss if they are marketed as books for children?   Or is it the way that these “lessons” are depicted that is offensive versus acceptable?

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