Although the popular children’s book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, written by Eric Carle, seems to be a mere children’s novel about a caterpillar’s week, with an absurd amount of analysis and a healthy amount of wild conclusions, a universal theme overarching the short story can be established. Over the course of the rapid and shallow development of the caterpillar’s adventure throughout the week, Carle explores the inner demons that dwell in foolish humans and where they are capable of leading us. In the caterpillar’s situation, its hunger, without a doubt, symbolizes the burning desires that fill humans’ souls. The caterpillar is hungry as soon as it is born, which represents how our little devils are within us from the beginning. In order to satisfy its hunger, the caterpillar begins to eat everything in sight. Similarly, as soon as humans are born, we need to satisfy these inner demons, and crying satisfies their desire to bring chaotic clamor into the world.
However, despite eating a plethora of different foods, the caterpillar is never satisfied, like the voracious monster it is, and begins to devour “unhealthy” foods, including a cupcake, a slice of cake, and a lollipop. As stated before, the unrealistically intense hunger absolutely symbolizes the inner demons hidden inside humans. Just as the caterpillar is willing to eat anything to satisfy its dying need of edibles, humans will do the very same to satisfy the wishes of the tiny devils.
After several rounds however, the caterpillar develops a stomachache due to its horrible diet.The stomachache represents the inevitable death that awaits us at the end of our lives, but because, this book is meant for children, showing the caterpillar’s death would be much too grotesque, hence a stomachache is used. However, despite its stomachache, the caterpillar still eats a leaf. This shows that the inner demons are never satisfied and will drive the body to fulfill their desires even if the human housing them dies. Therefore, The Very Hungry Caterpillar is a children’s story that has a message hidden deep within its adorable illustrations. Despite all the wonderful things that are said about this children’s book, parents should be aware of implications of the story and proceed with caution. At the end of the book, the caterpillar turns into a “beautiful” butterfly, but those impertinent details should be ignored because it directly conflicts with the point I have been trying to make in this post.
Words and Image by Mina Choe