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The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi is arguably one of the most acclaimed pieces of work in literature. The story tells of a boy, who is a marionette puppet made out of enchanted wood, trying his hardest to become a real-life boy. Throughout the book, Pinocchio is faced with many decisions in which he has the chance to disobey for personal enjoyments; however, his disobedience directly results in karmic punishment. Readers can draw many themes from the story such as morality and ethics, identity, and a few subthemes including peer pressure, the importance of education, and laziness. The most important dominating theme within The Adventures of Pinocchio however, is learning from the consequences when choosing natural impulses over altruism. Not only for Pinocchio himself, but also for the readers. This is observed in every section of the novel. The most distinct points are present: in the exposition when Pinocchio runs away and Geppetto ends up in prison, during the climax when Pinocchio believes the fairy with blue hair has died, and finally at the end of the story when he becomes a real boy by overcoming negative influence.
The first distinctive sequence of events that demonstrates the dominating theme is during the exposition of the novel. The origin of Pinocchio is introduced as a piece of wood that wept and laughed like a child discovered by Mastro Cherry, who is a carpenter. The piece of wood is given to Geppetto who then constructs it into the marionette boy, Pinocchio. From the get-go, he is a mischievous puppet who is impudent to his creator. He runs away into the streets and eventually results in Geppetto’s arrest for suspected child abuse. His selfish decision results in hunger, and his feet burning off. “If I had not run away from home and if Father were here now, I should not be dying of hunger.” He says. This is the pivotal moment in which Pinocchio begins to learn of the repercussions caused directly by his own actions based on natural impulse. Carl Van Doren points this out in his introductory essay for the novel, “he is forced to recognize his own headstrong impulse to do things which he feels are natural but which he has been told are mischievous”. After recognizing his mistakes, Pinocchio weeps to Geppetto who has returned from prison. His delinquency is returned with a punishment from Geppetto himself — but of course Pinocchio doesn’t immediately become considerate after this event. Many similar occurrences happen like the aforementioned event, however a particular climactic scene within the novel gives a distinctive realization from Pinocchio that his actions have more effects than he thought. The fairy with the blue hair is characterized as Pinocchio’s protector and appears in important moments to warn him of his behavior. In chapter 23 of the novel, Pinocchio experiences events in which he is led to believe the fairy with blue hair is dead. Approaching the house of the fairy, he discovers a grave which directly mentions Pinocchio as the cause of her death. This directly affects Pinocchio and causes him to suffer with severe emotional pain. His mourning is a turning point in which he finally understands the weight of his actions.
In The Hidden Pinocchio: Tale of a Subversive Puppet, M.L. Rosenthal suggests Pinocchio “is forced by the most painful kind of experience to accept responsibility. The change takes place because he sees, however sporadically, that those he cares for are suffering because of him”. After this experience, Pinocchio is influenced by his newfound responsibility to find and aid his father, when a pigeon informs him of his location. Ultimately, Pinocchio understands how important selflessness is based on the exposure of these negative outcomes. Pinocchio discovers the fairy with the blue hair once more as she is revealed to have faked her own death. He is frustrated with the idea of continuing to be a marionette puppet while the fairy has grown. Pinocchio promises the fairy with the blue hair that he will act like a well-behaved child, study, and work hard, in order to become a real boy. He attends school and his teacher even praises him for being attentive and a hard worker. Even though he has become obedient, his bad friends trick him into staying out of school and almost results get him arrested. However, towards the end of the novel he has to save and care for Geppetto. The fairy rewards him for this in his dreams and forgives him for all his mischief. Upon waking up he is thrilled to discover he has become a real boy. This is the final learning experience for Pinocchio. His hard work and good moral behavior resulted in a reward rather than the negative consequences he previously faced and the lesson is learned. “The moral of the puppet who, by overcoming his evil influences and following the advice of his good fairy, changes into a ‘real boy,’ is admirable.”
The novel, The Adventures of Pinocchio, is a learning experience for both Pinocchio and the readers. While there may be underlying themes within the novel, the overwhelming moral lesson and theme is the experience of learning through negative consequences of juvenile behavior as seen by Pinocchio throughout the course of the book. Choosing natural, destructive, and mischievous impulses over an altruistic attitude can result in repercussions that may have not been thought about prior to choosing them. Pinocchio is made aware of these consequences immediately when he acts as a young boy would. Starving because of his own choices and believing he is the cause death for one of the most important people in his life are both significant events in which this is directly observed. Not only does the reader understand this but Pinocchio shows remorse every time he gets in trouble, fueling the theme of learning from negative consequences. This is what really makes people human, and in terms of Pinocchio, it literally made him human.
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