The Rescuers Critical Context - Essay

Margery Sharp

Critical Context

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

The Rescuers is part of a strong tradition of miniaturism in children’s literature. Like other classics of this subgenre, such as Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels (1726), E. B. White’s Stuart Little (1945), and Mary Norton’s The Borrowers (1952), The Rescuers sympathetically reflects children’s physically and psychologically weaker position in relationship to adults. Like Norton’s stories of elflike people who live in the hidden crannies of a human’s mansion, it expresses a purely concrete fascination with the material aspects of a small creature’s life: the lovingly decorated mouse holes and large objects ingeniously converted for small folks’ use. Unlike the great classics of miniaturism, however, The Rescuers eschews biting social satire and philosophical reflections on issues such as the nature of existence and the meaning of life, remaining primarily a comedy of manners and a literary parody.

Initially published as an adult title, The Rescuers quickly came to be regarded as a family classic, winning a commendation from the British Library Association in 1959. Margery Sharp continued the adventures of the Prisoners’ Aid Society in equally imaginative and witty sequels. Miss Bianca and Bernard remain the protagonists throughout the series, and various other characters are introduced as assistants on each new rescue mission. The Walt Disney films The Rescuers (1977) and The Rescuers Down Under (1991) are based on the characters and ideas found in the series, but they do not replicate Sharp’s stories.