A. A. Milne Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

ph_0111206386-Milne.jpg A. A. Milne. Published by Salem Press, Inc.

A. A. Milne brought his own brand of humor to the mystery story. One of his early essays for the British publication Punch was a satirical account of a Sherlock Holmes story. This tone stayed with him when he wrote his one famous mystery novel, The Red House Mystery (1922). The book borders on parody as both Milne’s characters and his readers play detective. Standing at the dawn of the Golden Age of British detective fiction, Milne helped set the tone for the other pre-World War II writers. To him, the mystery was a parlor game played by the idle rich, and murder was simply an excuse to engage in a fun-filled evening of puzzle solving. He created stock characters who engage in idle diversions and who float whimsically through life until their carefree existence is interrupted by a distasteful and indecorous murder—a situation replayed over and over again in many famous murder mysteries.

Milne sets his mystery in the pristine atmosphere of the English countryside and focuses on life in the country manor house. His detective is not as stodgy as Edgar Allan Poe’s C. Auguste Dupin or as morose as Sherlock Holmes. Milne’s amateur sleuth is a whimsical, elfish character with a fine eye for detail and a keen sense of intuition, while his Watson character is a bright and dapper English gentleman with the zest and verve of a young prep school graduate. Milne avoids entangling his characters in romantic involvements and refuses to get his detective bogged down in the details of criminology. Violence is almost absent from his mystery, and no one is every really threatened by danger. Having a potential murderer lurking about is merely an excuse for playing a game of hide-and-seek. For Milne, his characters, and his readers, playing detective is great fun, a perfect leisure-time activity.

Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

How do A. A. Milne’s animal characters reflect the personalities of real people?

Was it a good idea for Milne to give his fictional Christopher Robin the same name as his real son?

What characteristics of the Pooh stories seem more appropriate for adults than for young children?

What features of Milne’s literary style seem to have most influenced other writers of children’s books? Which contemporary writers seem to have learned the most from Milne?

Have illustrator Ernest H. Shepard’s artistic contributions to Milne’s books been sufficiently appreciated?

One critic has argued that Milne’s humor derives from pushing logical ideas to “the point of absurdity.” Does this criticism adequately explain the basis of Milne’s humor?


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Chandler, Raymond. “The Simple Art of Murder.” In The Simple Art of Murder. New York: Vintage Books, 1988. One of the most famous American authors of detective fiction discusses Milne’s contributions to the genre.

Connolly, Paula. Winnie-the-Pooh and the House at Pooh Corner: Recovering Arcadia. New York: Twayne, 1995. A literary study by an academic tightly focused on Milne’s output as a writer for children. Connolly treats his work seriously, putting it in historical and critical context with other classics for young readers.

Horsley, Lee. Twentieth-Century Crime Fiction. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. Comprehensive overview of the development of crime fiction in the twentieth century helps the reader understand the nature and importance of Milne’s distinctive contributions.

Milne, A. A. It’s Too Late Now: The Autobiography of a Writer. London: Methuen, 1939. Milne’s autobiography delivers insights into his writing process and the life experiences that shaped his work.

Milne, Christopher. Enchanted Places. New York: Dutton, 1974. Christopher Robin’s own memoir on what his early life was like presented his father as a cool and rather detached figure.

Milne, Christopher. The Path Through the Trees. New York: Dutton, 1979. This subsequent memoir about Christopher Robin’s adult life, adds a few details about his father but is warmer in tone and is dedicated to his memory.

Panek, LeRoy. “A. A. Milne.” Watteau’s Shepherds: The Detective Novel in Britain, 1914-1940. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green University Popular Press, 1979. Milne’s place in British detective fiction is explicated in this tightly focused study of the genre between the two world wars.

Swann, Thomas Burnett. A. A. Milne. New York: Twayne, 1971. A standard critical biography from Twayne’s English Authors series.

Thwaite, Ann. A. A. Milne: His Life. Boston: Faber & Faber, 1990. Thwaite draws on the memoirs of Milne and his son Christopher Robin, as well as on unpublished letters.

Thwaite, Ann. The Brilliant Career of Winnie-the-Pooh: The Definitive History of the Best Bear in All the World. New York: Dutton Children’s Books, 1992. Contains the visual materials that Thwaite collected while researching her 1990 biography of Milne.