Category Archives: Picaresque

The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi

pinocchio-coverThe Adventures of Pinocchio. Trans. Brock, Geoffrey. Introduction. By Umberto Eco. Afterward. By Rebecca West. New York: New York Review of Books, 2009. Print.

The New York Book Review Books published the original, and translated, version of, the Italian author, Carlo Collodi’s  Pinnochio. It was originally published as a children’s book in 1883. The protagonist, Pinocchio, is a wooden puppet built by his creator, the carpenter. Once Pinocchio acquires his voice, he realizes his freedom and runs away from the carpenter, Geppetto. Pinocchio is portrayed as disobedient for running away and throughout his journey he encounters various fairytale-like characters. Each character represents a moral choice and Pinocchio decisions teach him moral lessons via trail and error. Eventually, after Pinocchio begins to understand the differences between right and wrong, he becomes a human being. This original version of Pinocchio, reveals Collodi’s political perspective of modern Italy  during the nineteenth century.

pinocchioThe Adventures of Pinocchio has passed through many adaptations and the most common is the Walt Disney version. Compared to the adapted Walt Disney version, the character Pinocchio is difficult to sympathize with. In the adaptation, Disney recreates Pinocchio as innocent.  Also, in the original narrative, Pinocchio is brutally humiliated and nearly killed.  At the end of the story he is saved by the fairy with turquoise hair, a motherly figure, and transformed into a human boy. Disney, does not show this motherly figure. The carpenter is Pinocchio’s only parental figure, according to Disney.

Along with introducing the genre picaresque, The Adventures of Pinocchio would be interesting to teach with the approach of understanding adaptation: from text to film. Ideally, I would pair the students and assign them with a scene from the text. Then, a handout would be provided with questions for them to anticipate what to look for.

Before viewing the film the students would answer the following questions based on their assigned scene.

1. Who are the characters?

2. What is the setting and time period?

3. What is the mood?

4. What are the themes?

url24After viewing the film, the students would answer questions to compare and contrast the text and the film. A Venn Diagram could be helpful as well.

1. What was similar or different about your scene in the text and your scene in the film?

2. Is this how you imagined the scene? Explain.

3. What did you like about the film adaptation? Give an example.

4. What did you dislike about the film adaptation? Give an example.

For a class discussion, I would ask, “Why do filmmakers or screenwriters make major changes in adapting literary work to film?”


The Life of Lazarillo De Tormes: His Fortunes and Adversities by W.S. Merwin Translated by Juan Goytisolo

Merwin, W. S. The Life of Lazarillo De Tormes: His Fortunes and Adversities. Trans. Juan Goytisolo. New York: New York Review, 2005. Print.

Lazarillo De Tormes is a novel that follows the protagonist Lazarillo’s journey as a servant. Lazarillo’s encounter with each master is a crucial moment in the plot and Lazarillo’s adventure. He travels from master to master and each master is in a higher class standing than the last. Lazarillo uvasThe protagonist is struggling survive and driven by his hunger. Lazarillo is a dishonest protagonist and he revels his dishonesty with his master, the blind man. Lazarillo was told to only eat one grape at a time while taking turns with the blind man and as soon as he sees the blind man eat two he begins to eat three. Lazarillo is dishonest, but because he is starving the reader can sympathize with him. By the end of the novel, the protagonist’s perspective has changed. The way he sees his wife reveals his epiphany as an honorable man. He becomes a hero, “… ‘I love her better than I do myself. In her, God shows me a thousand favors, much more than I deserve; for I’ll swear on the consecrated Host that she’s as good a woman as any dwelling within the gates of Toledo. I’ll fight anyone who laztells me something different.’ That way, they tell me nothing, and I enjoy domestic peace (103).

In a classroom I would teach “Lazarillo De Tormes” for its genre, picaresque, but also the term ‘epiphany.’ The relevant questions for an in-class discussion are: What is an epiphany? How does it serve the novel and it’s genre? What makes Lazarillo a hero in the end?


The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Huckleberry FinnTwain, Mark. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. 1st ed. United States: Dover Publications, 1994. Print.

Mark Twain, an American author, originally published The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in 1884. The sequel to The Adventures of Tom Swayer continued a conversation about civil rights following the years after the Civil War. The protagonist, Huck Finn, is a young boy and he desires to understand the lessons society has taught him. He is traveling down the river away from the low-income white society he was born into. After abandoned by his drunken father, Huck continues down the river and encounters several characters, also seen as Huck’s masters, who teach him moral lessons. He struggles with the racist image society has connected to blacks and the idea of slavery. However, Huck keeps moving down the river with the hopes of discovering his individuality along with his own moral system. The reading level ranges form grades 7-9.

A NPR article “Why Mark Twain Still Matters,” by Alan Greenblat, mentions the timeless elements of Twain’s novels: his use of humor and perspective on race in America. In order to teach Huckleberry Finn and avoid a young reader’s resistance towards the text, students should be provided with this article prior to comprehending the text. “Why Mark Twain Still Matters,” explains the relevance of Mark Twain in modern American life.

In regards to teaching a satirical text from the picaresque genre, it is helpful for students to understand the importance of diction. Using a Concept Map while reading benefits reading comprehension, specifically a clear understanding of the main ideas communicated via the text. I created a Concept Map on GoogleDocs for students to use and share with there classmates. This is an interactive activity and students will need access to a computer and the internet in order to participate.

The purpose of the Concept Map is for students to start with an understanding of satirical diction and refer to the text for evidence. In the Concept Map students will identify four examples of satirical diction or phrases. Then students will elaborate in the outer bubbles on how the satirical diction identified relates to the conversation about race in America. Below is an example of the Concept Map I created in GoogleDocs.





Picaresque Fiction

Why teach a Picaresque Novel?

I decided to integrate the picaresque genre with the theme overcoming obstacles with a desire, because the classic picaresque protagonist, or hero, experiences a journey filled with obstacles that prevent him from moving closer to his deepest desire. The picaresque novel is essential to teach adolescent readers because it is a classic genre still relevant in modern media and contemporary fiction. The picaresque narrative can be identified mostly in adapted films. From my personal experience, I do understand the context of a classic text may be difficult for adolescent readers to connect with. For this reason, I included three picaresque novels written by authors from different countries. Specifically, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, written by Mark Twain an American author, Pinocchio, written by Carlo Collodi an Italian author, and The Life of Lazarillo de Tormes a spanish novella. Looking back to myself as an adolescent reader, I recall expecting a text to relate to my life. Keeping this in mind, I matched Collodi’s original version of Pinocchio with the Walt Disney adaptation. Adolescent readers will have the opportunity to analyze a familiar adapted film and compare it to the text.

What is a Picaresque Novel?

“It tells the life of a knave or picaroon who is the servant of several masters. Through his experience this picaroon satirizes the society in which he lives in,” according to the fourth edition Dictionary of Literary Terms & Literary Theory (Cuddon 666).

What is Satire?

A literary art form that ridicules human folly or vice hopping to correct it.

Commonly used satirical devices:

Hyperbole: a gross overstatement; an extreme exaggeration.

Invective: Speech that may be directed toward an individual, cause, idea, or system that attacks or denounces it.

Inversion: A reversal of order, form, or another relationship.

Irony: A literary device where what is stated is often the opposite of what is meant.

Sarcasm: Sneering disapproval often expressed as praise; i.e., someone who falls may be praised for his gracefulness.

Understatement: Speech that deliberately minimizes a situation, often for comic effect.

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