I finally managed to get the shocking tale of the Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle from the library. And after studying the deeper layers of this story I am now ready to share my insights with the world!
The Very Hungry Caterpillar: a very deep analysis
It turns out The Very Hungry Caterpillar is an indictment against modern day society! And the main character, The Very Hungry Caterpilar symbolizes modern day woman. It’s a tragic metaphor of women who always have to do more, more, and then some more. Women nowadays have to be succesful employees, loving moms and sexy wives. But is that enough?! ‘Nooooo, it is not,’ says Eric Carle. Society is ‘still hungry’ for more. It’s never enough.
Women fall victim to the Never Enough Principle
The Very Hungry Caterpillar munching herself through more and more food, depicts women buying more and stuff, while trying to find relief from their ‘hunger’ for some peace and quiet. This then leads to an unfortunate case of both physical and mental obesity. This tragic outcome of never having, or doing enough, is summed up by Eric Carle in these words: ‘He was a big fat caterpillar’. ‘He’ being modern day woman of course. Hence the trend of decluttering! Decluttering is one of the many ways women try to regain their balance.
But despite attemps to declutter, eventually this symbolic obesity leads to modern day woman retreating from society: the caterpillar builds a small house around herself, and retreats. The fact that ‘retreats’ are becoming more and more popular is further evidence Eric Carle’s symbolism is right on the money! After some time, thinking about herself and stuff, modern day woman then returns to society in a new form: the caterpillar has become a butterfly.
In the form of a butterfly, women have wings and can escape gravity. Gravity being the pressure on women to do more all the time.
Open ending: what ever will happen next?!
The book has an open ending. Carle leaves the reader hanging, not knowing what will happen to the modern day woman after her transformation from victim of the never enough principle into a butterfly.
One can only hope she doesn’t turn out to be a one day butterfly.
To sum up
The Very Hungry Caterpillar is not a tale for the weak! The heavy symbolism and underlying themes of consumerism can be shocking indeed. And to be frank, I am quite surprised this book seems to target the toddler market.