Saturday, October 20, 2007


When I was very young I received a book of chemistry instruction in the mail. The first chapter of the book covered the importance of safety and provided a list of items needed for further instruction. I transcribed this list of items to my mother and waited for their arrival. At 5pm my door knocked. It was my mother, as expected, with a box. In it I found two rubber gloves, a beaker, a visor for my eyes, envelopes filled with various powders, and a Bible. Mother smiled, kissed my on my cheek and left me alone to my new world of thought. In many ways I have never left that room since.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

A Poem.

With adolescents,

group methods are useful,
as play therapy


for younger children.

With the younger children
in a group
we give

more attention
to what they do;

With older children we get more from what they say.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

An Important Discovery

I regard it as a major finding that no good marionette-show plots ever came from comic books, although the children read so many of them. The "inspiration" from comic books is never artistic, literary or even a good story. It is a precipitate of fragmentary scenes, violent, destructive and smart-alecky cynical. This is in marked contrast to the inspiration children derive from movies, of which they have seen a much smaller number. It might be objected that a young child is not capable of absorbing and retaining a really good and artistic story from a movie or a real book. Even very young children get something out of a good story and can make something of it. During one of the audience reaction periods after a marionette show, an eight- year-old boy gave his account of the movie The Grapes of Wrath:

I saw The Grapes of Wrath. It was very good. It was about a man who got out of prison. He was in Sing Sing, I think. He walked to a place where he heard music. A man came along in a car. He asked for a ride. The man said, 'Don't you see that sign?' Then he said, 'Hop on till we get around the bend.'

"They were walking to the barnyard. A big storm was coming. All the people were gone from the house because the cats came - big tractors. The people had to go to Uncle George. They had to get off the land, and travel, and travel, and travel. The oldest man died. The woman died. They were riding and riding. You see them in the dark without lights, and then it shows the end.

"Only in the end they were happy. They weren't happy at first because they had to get off the land."

Like a good child's drawing, such an account gives essentials in very simplified form. It is children with beautiful minds like this, who can summarize The Grapes of Wrath by telling how the people in it "travel and travel and travel," whom we corrupt by throwing them to the 100-million-dollar enterprise of the comic-book industry.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

We used the Marionette method for children from five to twelve.

Before joining this group children were not asked about comic books. It was interesting to see how the concrete inspiration for a plot, such as it was, came usually from a real event or from a movie, radio or comic book. Typical crime-comic-book methods appeared in the plays: knife-throwing, throwing somebody out of the window, stomping on people, etc. I later classified the productions (which were taken down by a stenographer) in two groups, constructive plays and destructive plays. The constructive plays were about parties, family reunions, lovers, dancing, painters in the house, etc. One production was entitled "A Day in Dr. Wertham's Office." Destructive plays were about crime, robbers, spies: "The Robbery in Your Neighborhood Store"; "A Night in Chinatown." Comic- book influences played a role only in the destructive plays. I have seen no constructive play inspired by a comic book. The language in the destructive plays sometimes came directly from comics. In the end the bad man went free or got killed. (He was never caught by the authorities and punished.)

When the performance of the play was over, the child audience of about eight or ten was asked to discuss it and ask questions of the author. This audience reaction had a great deal of spontaneity and was often very revealing with respect to both the child who asked and the child who answered. For example, one child in the audience asked, "Why didn't you make the robber kick the cop?" Or a child author answered a question about where he got the idea for his play, "I got part of it out of a comic book - the part where they throw the Chinaman into the river. The rest I made up for myself." The children drew their own sets. These sketches were a supplementary source for psychological interpretations. For instance, in a constructive play an eight-year-old boy drew a "playground," a "house" and "on the street." Children who produced destructive plays often made correspondingly aggressive sketches.

Sunday, November 20, 2005


As another procedure of investigation, children are allowed to play with a marionette stage. They make up their own plays, usually with one child doing the outline and filling it in with suggestions from one or two other children. The plot outline is usually very simple, with the play consisting largely in improvisations. The marionettes represent such figures as permitted to the child to symbolize a father-figure, a mother-figure, siblings and other dramatis personae in his life.

Marionette shows sometimes reveal very well the psychological factors in the family constellation.