About The Author of The Children’s Story
James Clavell, born Charles Edmund DuMaresq Clavell (10 October 1924 – 7 September 1994) was an Australian-born, British (later naturalized American) novelist, screenwriter, director and World War II veteran and prisoner of war. Clavell is best known for his epic Asian Saga series of novels and their televised adaptations, along with such films as The Great Escape .
Early life and World War II
Born in Australia, Clavell was the son of Commander Richard Clavell, a British Royal Navy officer who was stationed in Australia on secondment from the Royal Navy to the Royal Australian Navy. In 1940, when Clavell finished his secondary schooling at Portsmouth Grammar School, he joined the Royal Artillery to follow his family tradition.
Clavell grew up in England and later became a member of the Royal Artillery. A motorcycle injury caused him to leave the military in 1946. He developed an interest in film, and his first writings were screenplays, such as The Fly (1958) and The Great Escape (1963; with others). Although he continued to write screenplays and direct films for several years, in 1960 Clavell began writing novels as well. He based his first novel, King Rat (1962; filmed 1965), on his experiences as a prisoner of the Japanese during World War II. Struggles for power and wealth and, secondarily, sex and love occupy his fiction as East and West and male and female clash. Clavell’s other novels include Tai-Pan (1966; filmed 1986) and Noble House (1981; TV miniseries 1988), set in historic and modern Hong Kong; Shōgun (1975), set in 17th-century Japan; Whirlwind (1986), set in Iran during its 1979 revolution; and Gai-Jin (1993), set in 19th-century Japan. Many of Clavell’s novels were made into television miniseries; the 1980 version of Shōgun was one of the most popular miniseries ever made.
Author : James Clavell
Country : United State
Language : English
Genre : Novella Allegory
Publisher : Dell Publishing Company
Publication date : 1981 (written 1963)
The Children's Story is a short story by James Clavell which appeared in the June 1964 issue of Reader's Digest and was republished in book form in 1981. It is also the title of a 1982 short film based upon the story.
Clavell's Thoughts :
It was a simple incident in the life of James Clavell-a talk with his young daughter just home from school-that inspired this chilling tale of what could happen in twenty-five quietly devastating minutes. He writes" The Children's Story came into being that day. It was then that I realized how vulnerable my child's mind was-any mind, for that matter-under controlled circumstances.
"Normally I write and rewrite, but this story came quickly-almost by itself. Barely three words were changed. It pleases me greatly because it keeps asking me questions....."Questions like What's the use of 'I pledge allegiance' without understanding? Like Why is it so easy to divert thoughts? Like What is Freedom? and Why is it so hard to explain? "The Childrens Story keeps asking me all sorts of questions I cannot answer. Perhaps you can-then your child will...."
Theme of this Story :
Johny was very resistant to the teacher that had come to their classroom and started to change the way the class was conducted.
Characters of this Story :
The story moves quickly and the characters are only briefly sketched out. The main character among the children is Johnny whose father fought in the war and is now being held prisoner. Johnny is afraid for his father and about the changes that are coming to his school because of the defeat.
The Setting of this story :
It uses a classroom of children facing a major change in their lives.
The Background of James Clavell made this story and Social Condition :
While a very short and simple story, it touches on many important concepts, such as freedom, religion, patriotism, etc. It is similar in nature to George Orwell's 1984 in its treatment of propaganda, control, and inter-generational warfare.
Clavell was inspired to write this story after a talk with his six-year-old daughter just home from school. His daughter Michaela was explaining how she had learned the Pledge of Allegiance, and he was struck by the thought that, though she had memorized the pledge, she had no idea what many of the words meant. The power to use language as a weapon, as it is done — all too effectively — in the classroom of Clavell's story admonishes us to always make sure young minds truly understand what a word really means.
In the concluding comment from The Children's Story Afterword, Clavell states the following: "During that day I asked all kinds of people of every age, “You know the 'I pledge allegiance...', but before I could finish, at once they would all parrot it, the words almost always equally blurred. In every case, discovered that not one teacher, ever — or anyone — had ever explained the words to any one of them. Everyone just had to learn it to say it. The Children's Story came into being that day. It was then that I realized how completely vulnerable my child's mind was — any mind for that matter — under controlled circumstances. Normally I write and rewrite and re-rewrite, but this story came quickly — almost by itself. Barely three words were changed. It pleases me greatly because it keeps asking me questions... Questions like what’s the use of 'I pledge allegiance' without understanding? Like why is it so easy to divert thoughts and implant others? Like what is freedom and why is it so hard to explain? The Children’s Story keeps asking me all sorts of questions I cannot answer. Perhaps you can — then your children will..."
Plot summary of this Story:
The story takes place in an unnamed American grade school classroom, in the aftermath of a war with an unnamed country. It is implied that America has been defeated and occupied.
The story opens with the previous teacher leaving the classroom, having been removed from her position and replaced with an agent of the foreign power. The new teacher has been trained in propaganda techniques, and is responsible for re-educating the children to be supportive of their occupiers. During the course of the story, the children are persuaded to abandon their religion and national loyalty. Framing the story is the fact that, while the children have ritually recited the Pledge of Allegiance every morning, none know what it actually means. The teacher is relentlessly positive about the change, offering the children candy, songs and praise. When asked if America won or lost the war, she responds only that "we won", implying that everyone would benefit from the conquest.
Only one student is initially hostile to the new teacher, a child named Johnny, whose father had been arrested and placed in a re-education camp. At first, he defends his father, but when he is rewarded by the teacher with a position of authority in the class, he quickly accepts the new regime and commits himself to not accepting "wrong thoughts".
The story takes place over a twenty-five minute span.
Movie adaptation : The short story was adapted in 1982 as an installment in the anthology TV series Mobil Showcase; this episode has also been made available on its own as a short film, but the film is reportedly difficult to find. Clavell's daughter (the above-referenced Michaela, known professionally as Michaela Ross during her brief acting career) played a seemingly very pleasant young teacher sent by the Soviet conquerors to indoctrinate a classroom of American children. She replaces an old teacher (played in her penultimate performance by the legendary actress Mildred Dunnock), who disappears after the students witness her crying.
The massage of this Story :
1. The Children’s Story depicts the enormous power of teachers, for good or for bad. It’s frightening to think how a child’s mind is susceptible to being manipulated so easily by the authority figures they trust. Schools are supposed to be places of learning, not places of political indoctrination. But with the use of sophisticated propaganda techniques, a classroom of children may be brainwashed in as little as twenty minutes. Since this story was written almost fifty years ago and the Cold War is long over, you might think The Children’s Story is outdated- but it’s not. The book’s implications are timeless and the theme is even more pertinent than ever. Remember what Melinda Harmon, a federal judge, said back in 1996: “Parents give up their rights when they drop the children off at public school.” They may allow special interests, social activists, and anyone else access to students.
2. the message sounds reasonable at first, even believable. However, her ulterior motive is to methodically challenge and brainwash a classroom of children to turn them against their country, their parents, and even basic freedoms. Little Johnny was the one small voice of distrust, but he was also manipulated in the end.
My Impression about this Story : It’s a shocking tale about the power an authority figure can have over impressionable young children. This is a very short story. It shows how a child's mind, and perhaps any person's mind, can be molded.