10 July 2007

What Has She Got in Her Pocketses?

And the Oz and Ends Award for Best Use of an Inexplicable Trend in Kids' Clothing goes to...

The Game, by Diana Wynne Jones.

This brief novel is yet another of Jones's magical explorations of sibling relationships. At the start young Hayley, an only child who's been raised by strict, old-fashioned grandparents in the city, is suddenly sent off to a country house in Ireland that's buzzing with cousins.

To symbolize Hayley's initial isolation, Jones highlights the contrast between her clothing and how her cousins dress. On page 3 Hayley is wearing "her neat floral dress and her shiny patent leather shoes." Her cousins, she notes bitterly, wear "long baggy trousers with lots of pockets down the sides." But in chapter six we know Hayley can fit in with her family when an aunt supplies her with "shorts with pockets, trousers with pockets,...jackets with pockets, sweatshirts with both hoods and pockets..."

Yes, Jones manages to find meaning in what has struck me (and what I suspect has struck her) as an inexplicable fashion trend: cargo pants. Shorts and trousers with spacious pockets hanging off them like popped blisters. Given all the electronic devices we carry around these days, there may be a practical purpose for all those pockets. But how many kids actually use them all? Why are they there?

Leave it to Diana Wynne Jones to supply a masterly answer. The game in The Game is a cousinly competition to collect things in the mythosphere (I'll discuss later). Hayley has pockets to store golden apples so she can pull them out later. In other words, her pants with lots of pockets down the sides turn out to be significant both to revealing character and furthering the plot.


Lee said...

ll be looking forward to your further comments, because I've just recently read this one and found it disappointing.

J. L. Bell said...

It's definitely not a major work, I agree.