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March 10, 2007



Death is a very common theme in childrens literature - nearly every central character of fairytale from Snow White to Sleeping Beauty is an orphan or has an "evil step-parent" (thus implying a kinder parent, now deceased). This image is reflected (or rooted?) in children's play, where death is also very common. I am not just referring to "bang-bang, you're dead" action-game mortality, but also to the more significant death that often takes place in childrens' make-believe games of "house" or the imprisonment-and-rescue adventure dramas they script.

Children see their imagined worlds in simple terms, and the digital states of "dead" or "alive" are attractively simple, as well as being highly dramatic. Of course, death in games or in Disney is often less permanent - and always less serious - than in real life. Nonetheless, the step-by-step acclimatisation that it affords (from temporary death in Snow White or Narnia; through permanent screen-death in Terabithia; all the way to the real demise of the first pet bunny) are invaluable preparation for the first human deaths they will inevitably encounter.

If we deprive our children of these rehearsals for real death, how will they ever be prepared for the real thing?

Adam Lawrence

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