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By using literary devices and humorous events to connect with children, Hughes kept The Iron Giant from being too frightening. For example, his beginning with a giant clumsily stepping from the side of the cliff exemplifies his methods of creating a children’s story because this beginning sets a comical, non-threatening tone as the foundation of the story. For instance, by using similes such as, “tearing the wire from the fence post, rolling it up like spaghetti, and eating it,” Hughes creates a humorous picture of a giant creature. Viewing a giant in this light-hearted way contrasts giants in typical children’s stories, such as ones present in Jack stories, where the giants are menacing creatures. By using comical situations, Hughes enables himself to address serious issues without being unbearable to children.
This humorous depiction of the giant also strays from the portrayal normally seen in classic fairy tales and other fantasy stories. For instance, although in the story Hogarth is a small boy who wants to help save humanity, the giant ultimately saves the day. Because the giant takes on the hero role, it is very different from classic tales, where the giant normally portrays the “bad guy.” For instance, in classic Jack stories, such as Jack the Giant Killer, the giant plays the role of a wicked antagonist outsmarted by the boy. Contrary to this, Hughes’s giant poses virtually no threat to humanity, save the fact he eats all the metal that he sees; the giant does not fit the stereotypical giant role. This atypical character, an important development in recent fairy tales, shows itself in works such as The Reluctant Dragon, where the dragon refuses to be a dragon. Zipes explains the reason for including atypical characteristics. He does not fit the stereotypical dragon that fights against men while breathing fire, but instead the boy and he work together to find a solution. This partnership effort of defeating an enemy also presides in Jack and the Devil’s Daughter, when Jack is able to outsmart the Devil with help from the Devil’s daughter. Likewise, there is a similar partnership shown in the end of The Iron Giant when the giant, after being persuaded by Hogarth, uses his intelligence and non-human capability of withstanding fire to defeat the space bat angel dragon. Therefore, the giant’s portrayal creates a non-traditional giant story allowing for a deeper meaning. For example, Hughes uses the giant to address heavy issues that delve into meaningful subjects. These meaningful subjects include ones such as nuclear power, hidden beneath the complex story of a giant that appears bad but turns out to not be that way at all. Hughes excels in presenting the giant as a strong hero character.
Hughes uses the giant to create an intelligent character, enabling the story to have the capacity to reach into profound subjects addressing threats to humanity.
While Hughes used the giant as a hero, the space-bat-angel-dragon seems at first to act as the ultimate enemy; although, this character turns out to cause paranoia more than threatening situations. In his first showing in the story, for instance, the dragon fits the stereotypical adversary in classic tales, such as Red Riding Hood where the wolf seeks to devour a small girl and a helpless grandmother. This story’s character reaches deeper than his apparent devastative actions of ruining humanity, though. The space- bat-angel-dragon possesses a deeper character than the typical shallowness of the “bad guys” in classic fairy tales. For instance, the dragon, after being defeated by the giant, breaks down, revealing he wasn’t always a menacing monster the space-bat-angel-dragon’s ambivalent name suggests his complex character. For example, space, bat, and dragon paint a haunting or sinister character, while angel implies kindness and helpfulness. In the story, the dragon evokes feelings around both these types of characters. For example, at first he was threatening, but he eventually became helpful to humanity. This personality allows Hughes to suggest strong points concerning the use of power,
The confrontation of serious topics and suggestions about society carries through the ending of The Iron Giant. Because the space-bat-angel-dragon realizes he does not need to be destructive and can benefit humanity, the anti-war and environmental protection theme jumps out. The Iron Giant concludes with a typical fairy-tale, happily-ever-after ending, but the story also presents strong statements about humanity and the way Hughes thinks humanity should exist. The former intimidating dragon causes peace on earth with his singing, Hughes ends his children’s story with his personal wish for all humanity-that humanity will live peaceable together without destructive motives. By using this message he sets his tale apart from other children’s tales by addressing these serious issues. While this message appears frightening, it is an important message that remains poignant and relative to today’s society.
Through its story-line and message, The Iron Giant presents itself as an entertaining story for children and adults. Its methods of making the story a children’s story, giant’s and space-bat-angel-dragon’s portrayals, the purpose, and the ending intermingle with ideas of the world and humanity’s actions in the world. Hughes believed that children deserve to know the truth about the world they live in, which he accomplished in this story, while not frightening people of young ages. With this belief, Hughes used strong overtones to create a meaningful children’s story about a desire for peace that is pleasing for many ages of people to read, while keeping the traditional fairy tale happily-ever-after conclusion.
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