Didactic storytelling has always existed. Long before the first picture book was printed, parents passed down folktales, fairytales by word of mouth, intending to help children learn more about the world they exist in—so they could safely navigate it. With picture books came a unique opportunity: the ability to use illustrations to not only tell but show children the consequences of their actions. This led to an influx of now-classic stories that aimed to shape the morals and behaviors of young children using didactic language and imagery.
This exhibit features 15 illustrations from Carlos Collodi’s Pinocchio—the classic tale of a wooden puppet who came to life. In it, we see the detrimental effects of authoritarian parenting: a style that is authority-driven, with little room for a child’s agency or will, and which relies strictly on punishment to encourage behavioral change. Within these illustrations, as within the story, we see the unintended effects of authoritarian teaching: a child who feels abandoned, neglected, and who lashes out because of his innate desire to be loved.
Gepetto creates Pinocchio
Pinocchio is created out of wood and paint by Gepetto, a woodcarver who makes his living as a puppeteer. Gepetto, who has always longed for a son, sees himself as Pinocchio’s maker, and therefore, his father.