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Course Hero, "Winnie-the-Pooh Study Guide," May 11, 2017, accessed August 15, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Winnie-the-Pooh/.

Winnie-the-Pooh | Themes

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Child's Psyche and Friendship

Although Christopher Robin is the only human in the Winnie-the-Pooh stories, the other characters inhabit and embody human characteristics. Because they are imaginary, they can be imagined to be anything—and imagined all together they make engaging and lively friends for Christopher Robin.

Even though Milne considered it a "trifle," Winnie-the-Pooh touches on what makes people social beings. None of the characters, as inventive and compelling as they may be, can be fully realized as human, not because they are stuffed toys but because they lack the dimensionality needed to live outside the Hundred Acre Wood. Eeyore, for instance, pessimistic and gloomy, with an ear for mimicking adult phrases, is the part of the child that keeps out of danger. He is also the friend that reminds readers of how easy it is to feel invisible; he is gray, old, and often overlooked. Eeyore does not seek companionship or comfort, but when it finds him, he is able to transcend gloom.

Kanga, in her brisk and efficient nurturing, is the caretaker friend, the one that forgets she is a child and forgets the joy of leaping forward. Kanga is funny and loving, but bland and rudderless on her own. Roo, on the other hand, is adventurous and excited about life. His fearlessness makes him both fun and somewhat dangerous. Roos are probably fun to hang out with, but without the Kangas and the Eeyores, Roo friends would run headlong into danger, leading others to join.

Owl and Rabbit both have superiority complexes, yet both are somewhat vulnerable. Although none of the animals can write, only Owl might be expected to. When Pooh says he can write but the letters get jumbled, readers know he is covering up, but writing isn't much of an issue for him. Owl, on the other hand, covers his lack of formal education with big words and bluster. He is the part of the child that is both proud of what he knows and desperately aware of what he doesn't. As a friend, Owl may be helpful, even kind, but will always be insecure about his knowledge. Rabbit is blustery and bossy, but popular; he is the only character with other friends and relations. Although Rabbit is somewhat dismissive of them, they keep coming back. Rabbit is the part of the child that takes charge, the planner, fully rational if not always kind.

Finally, Piglet is the part of the child that feels both anxious for not being brave and anxious for being brave. Piglet is small and often feels small. He needs the reassuring presence of either Pooh or Christopher Robin to assert himself. He is the part of the child that is likely to grow and equally as likely to stay small. He is the friend that allows others to nurture him, to express love.

And Pooh? Pooh is, at his most basic, the embodiment of the impulsive child. He is ingenious, if not brilliant, and acts both impulsively (in deciding to catch a Heffalump) and instinctively (in jumping off his branch because he believes there is honey floating by). Pooh is loving. He is the part of the child that gives and receives love freely and without reservation. Taken together, the toys have a joyful presence that allows Christopher Robin to just be a boy.

Art and Creativity

Winnie-the-Pooh is a work of art, and the illustrations create a world that is primitive. Readers walking in Ashdown Forest might feel its magic because it has been captured forever as the Hundred Acre Wood. Milne's language resonates with children and adults, inviting them to create personal connections to both the artist and the work. His wordplay encourages readers to form new relationships with common words, to see and hear them differently, as a poet might.

However, Winnie-the Pooh isn't only a work of art by itself; it is about art as well, about the spontaneous and joyous creation of art. Pooh's rhymes and hums are his creative responses to his circumstances. They preserve and reflect a moment or moments in the artist's (Pooh) life that can be shared. Art is made in the most humble of abodes, in a tree, in a forest, by a lovable stuffed bear. It is found in the most banal of circumstances, while doing Stoutness exercises, and in the most exciting, like finding a friend's tail.

Home and Ritual

Home plays a major role in Winnie-the-Pooh. Going home is a reward for a day well spent, either adventuring or simply being kind. Piglet's home is special because it belonged to his grandfather, who was brave and so important he had two names. Christopher Robin's home stays dry and safe during the big deluge and delights him when it becomes an island. Owl's home is grand and imposing, adorned with signs and notices explaining protocols. Rabbit's home is itself a character in one of the stories; it takes effort to get in and even more effort to get out. Home, for the author, is where Christopher Robin lives with his toys, where he takes baths, hears stories, and warms himself by the fire.

Home to Pooh is also significant because it involves ritual and comfort. Pooh is motivated by honey, typically at home in his cupboard. When it is time for a little something, Pooh feels it from the twitching in his nose to the buzzing through his body. Of course he is hungry, but more than satisfying his hunger he relishes the comfort and ritual of eating his honey, either alone or in the company of friends. At the same time daily Pooh takes a break from everything to sit and take care of himself. Ritual is so comforting to Pooh that when he must abandon his daily snack and meals, Christopher Robin substitutes another comforting ritual: reading a book. Clearly stories are ritualized in his home; the bedtime stories his father tells him are the very stories recorded in the book.

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