Challenging literary analysis

Tonight I was reading Eric Carle’s THE VERY LONELY FIREFLY to my daughter. Though I like the book a lot, I apparently never fully understood the story. As the firefly makes its way around town, people pop their heads out of windows and doors, wondering about the origins of all the apparent noise going on outside.

I’ve always thought it was the firefly making the noise, though admittedly I found it odd that a firefly would be making any noise. I caught enough of them in jars as a kid to know how quiet they are.

Apparently the noise is the sound of fireworks, which the firefly and the people discover near the end of the book. As my wife explained, the book has a parallel story running throughout it. The story of the firefly, searching for other fireflies, and the story of the family, on their way to the fireworks.

And just like that, I was right back at Trinity College, in Feminist Literary Criticism, circa 1996, trying to make sense of Virginia Woolf’s TO THE LIGHTHOUSE, feeling stupid and annoyed.

Except this time it was my infant daughter’s board book by the same guy who wrote THE VERY HUNGRY CATEPILLAR.

Thanks, Eric Carle.