Judy (Sussman Kitchens) Blume NAOMI DECTER [later NAOMI MUNSON] - Essay


(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Miss Blume's works offer a child's-eye view of the trials and tribulations of life, and cover just about every social and emotional problem her readers are likely to encounter. It's Not the End of the World, for example, concerns a girl whose parents are getting divorced. The heroine of Deenie is a thirteen-year-old with curvature of the spine. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing is about sibling rivalry. Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret is the story of a girl with a Jewish father and a Christian mother, trying to choose her own religion.

Miss Blume also writes about death, timidity, mob cruelty, and racial prejudice. But most of her books are in one way or another about sex. Her characters discuss their own sex lives or their parents'; they masturbate and menstruate; they worry about the size of their breasts and about kissing: they have wet dreams and they even have intercourse.

Given the sophistication of Miss Blume's material, her style is surprisingly simple. She writes for the most part in the first person: her vocabulary, grammar, and syntax are colloquial; her tone, consciously or perhaps not, evokes the awkwardness of a fifth-grader's diary….

If the prose often seems at odds with the subject, however, it is perfectly suited to Miss Blume's imagination and characterization. Plot in the Blume books follows a rather strict pattern. There is, first of all, a "problem"—social or emotional; then, a hero or heroine to define, and other children to participate in, the problem; parents to pay the bills, drive the cars, and occasionally give a word of advice; the odd trouble some sibling or doting grandparent. The problem is resolved through the child's own experience, and the book ends.

Miss Blume's stock melodramas are staffed by stock characters—the Right People (from the author's point of view) and the Wrong People. The Right People do and think the Right Thing, the Wrong People the Wrong Thing. One Right Person is virtually indistinguishable from another, and Wrong Persons bear a striking resemblance to other Wrong Persons. (p. 65)

These books are a perfect, if pint-sized, literary embodiment of contemporary...

(The entire section is 922 words.)