The White Deer Analysis
by James Thurber

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The White Deer Analysis

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

James Thurber wrote and illustrated The White Deer during what many of his readers consider the richest portion of his career, in which he produced a number of fables and fairy tales, including such delightful novellas as Many Moons (1943), The 13 Clocks (1950), and The Wonderful O (1957). These works combine Thurber’s most whimsical, innovative, and verbally rich writing with a playfully serious moralism.

Main themes of The White Deer are the importance of imagination to sustaining love and the general fertility of life, both biological and spiritual. Although King Clode is prone to melancholia, his visionary power sets him apart from the less imaginative employees of his court, for example, an astronomer who uses pink lenses to make everything he sees rose-colored and a physician who becomes ill and splits rather wildly into the opposing roles of doctor and patient. Clode’s older sons also lack creativity and sympathy, and their quests take them into worlds that mock their deficiencies; they never understand these worlds. They return from their quests believing that physical courage and cunning are strengths enough for life. Jorn, although given an easy quest, calls upon magical help to make the quest difficult enough to be worthy of the love that motivates him. He understands the power of imagination to give meaning to experience and, thereby, to help one escape the ease and corruption of a hedonistic and commercial society. Jorn’s decisive act is to affirm his love for Rosanore in the face of doubts and obstacles, thus showing that faith in his dream of love has the power to make the dream real.

The White Deer is illustrated with Thurber’s line drawings. These drawings often are humorous in themselves and sometimes suggest Thurber’s conceptions of such fantastic creatures as the buzbuz birds, with their beaks like scissors blades, but they also provide opportunities for playful interaction between text and illustration. For example, Thurber has a character fall over a dog only so he can include a picture of one of his famous dogs in the...

(The entire section is 509 words.)