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The Function of Flouting in The Little Red Riding Hood

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This assignment will focus on the children’s script ‘The Little Red Riding Hood’ as the source of data for analysis. The assignment will review the function of flouting (as described by Grice’s cooperative principle) within the tale and consider whether this function is prevalent and encourages the readers imagine towards the tale. The approach to the hypothesis (flouting is a common literary device used in such texts) will be carried out by analysing primary and secondary references, journal articles and tutor notes whilst paying reference to the script ‘The Little Red Riding Hood.’

Grice’s cooperative principle theory is the main linguistic approach considered when analysing this script. This theory focuses on how the reader or listener can decode a sentence so they understand what is implied from in comparison to what has been said. In order for an understanding to be formed between the speaker and listener each maxim must be met within one sentence. The four maxims stated by Grice are quality, quantity, relation and manner. In some instances the speaker intentionally breaks one of the maxims because they want the listener to notice something, this is known as flouting.

The script and contents are of traditional value which children have read for many years. The myth of ‘The Little Red Riding Hood’ originated in various European countries. This tale focuses on the culture of the time of origin with the intention to teach lessons through the story portrayed. It could be argued that Little Red Riding Hood was naive and did not realise that the wolf was evil, greedy and a danger to her. Grice’s cooperative principle of maxims do not always apply. Little Red Riding Hood is an example of flouting or violation of maxims. The flouting of maxims in the tale are primarily to teach a lesson about moral values, keeping safe from strangers and to provide entertainment to the reader/listener.

Grice’s cooperative principle focuses on what the reader/learner gains from what is said or wrote in comparison to what is implied, from the pragmatics of the dialogue. Pragmatics is fundamentally based on the awareness of language use as a form of communication. For example in Little Red Riding Hood when the wolf gives simplistic answers for the alterations in the so called ‘grandma’, flouting the maxim of quantity. When Little Red Riding Hood comments on her grandmas ‘great ears’ the wolf replies ‘All the better to hear you!’. The wolf purposely flouts the maxim of quantity and withholds any information from Little Red Riding Hood. He does this in order to build suspense and entice Little Red Riding Hood to ask more questions, like a wolf would when antagonising it’s prey.

Yule (2010) purported that the use of pragmatics includes conversational structure, speech acts and an assumption of what the story is about. The violation of the maxim of quality in the tale is that there is less than the required information which means reader does not gain a detailed understanding or description. The Brothers Grimm version of Little Red Riding Hood does not contemplate the reader’s background knowledge (flouting the maxim of relevance). As a consequence the reader may anticipate and guess the ending of the tale. Anticipation of the reader once again reinforces the morals behind the story of Little Red Riding Hood. If the reader fails to anticipate the correct ending the moral allegory of not forming a judgement of someone upon first encounter is further reinforced.

Pratt (1977) argues that the flouting (violation) of maxims is implemented by writers to entertain the readers. A writer has to invoke a reader’s interest to ensure they’re engrossed in their work. The script is aimed at children and therefore it is crucial that it encourages their participation. The Grimm Brothers ensure the participation of their target audience via the use of flouting of maxims. To ensure entertainment and engagement the brother often flout the maxim of manner. This is apparent in this tale as information is conveyed by the use of imaginative characters, conflict between the tale and reality and ambiguous information. For example, Little Red Riding Hood is portrayed to be a good, kind and beautiful protagonist ‘Once upon a time there was a dear little girl who was loved by everyone who looked at her’. Another example of flouting the maxim of manner using imaginative characters is that of the wolf, who is believed to be bad, scary and gobbles. The Grimm Brothers fail to be brief and contribute more information than is required in order to engage the audience.

To conclude, it is clear that the hypothesis that flouting is a common literary device utilised in children’s books is true. The Grimm Brothers flout maxims so that they can engage their target audience. Like most other children’s books the excessive amount of ambiguity ensures entertainment. Furthermore, Mitchell argues that it is crucial that the reader encourages children’s participation in a story. This is done by questioning, commenting and interacting with a script to build an understanding of what the dialogue means. Speakers tend to carry out flouting of maxims for conversational effect to ensure the reader or listener recognises their intentions. The main intention of ‘The Little Red Riding Hood’ is to reinforce the idea of ‘stranger danger!’ to children. 

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The Function Of Flouting In The Little Red Riding Hood. (2021, August 06). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 8, 2023, from
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