Introducing Children's Literature: From Romanticism to Postmodernism

By Deborah Cogan Thacker; Jean Webb | Go to book overview

Chapter 15

Clockwork

A fairy tale for a postmodern time

Philip Pullman's postmodern text Clockwork (1997), is a fairy tale in which Pullman produces a moral critique of contemporary Western society. The tale works as a metaphor depicting the triumph of human compassion over the destructive and selfish drives of capitalism, which threaten to produce a mechanistic and loveless society. In Pullman's tale, society is driven by selfish inhumane Faustian desires which eradicate the most human quality of love. Clockwork, however, is not a simple didactic moral tale, but a complex postmodern text. The narrative works in a metafictive way in which it 'enacts or performs what it wishes to say about narrative' (Currie 1998:52) and also mirrors the moral intention of the text. The reader is engaged in a narrative structure which both parallels the mechanistic drive of society, whilst actively involving the individual reader as a maker of meaning. This is possible through the postmodern nature of the text.

Structurally the text comprises a number of narrative frames. The principal voice is that of the narrator, who acts as the overarching storyteller and also as an omniscient narrator. The comments of the narrator are embedded in the text as commentary on the characters and as obvious physical frames inserted into the text in which additional moral and didactic comment is made, and 'information' given. The other narrative voice is that of the character Fritz, a young storyteller, whose tale frames the events experienced by the other characters. The reader is made highly conscious of the structure of the narrative throughout the text. Such an awareness is typical of postmodern writing.

The reading experience begins with an extract from the text. It is an untitled section which foregrounds the activity of storytelling:

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