Deborah Diesen’s “The Pout-Pout Fish” tells the tale of a fish cursed with a big pouty mouth. He allows this naturally pouty mouth to affect his disposition, making him sad and cranky and antisocial all the time. He comes across a number of other sea creatures who all suggest to him that he should cheer up. He explains to each of them that he was born with this pout and has no choice but to mope. He then encounters a beautiful silver fish that kisses him, and he realizes his pouty lips are for kissing, not pouting. He is overjoyed and decides to spread his joy by kissing everyone he meets.
The book is fun for kids because of the vivid undersea colors, the fun repetition of the verse and the rhythmic rhyme scheme. It also teaches a great lesson about not relegating oneself to a station you aren’t happy with. Just because you’re born with pouty lips doesn’t mean all you can do is pout. You can find a very fulfilling occupation(like kissing) with your abilities, regardless of what they are. This could speak to people with disabilities, handicaps, or who just feel different because they have rare or distinct abilities or features.
I think this theme is very much attuned to the Enlightentment ideals. Don’t settle in a station you aren’t happy with. Learn what benefits your skills can produce and use them to improve your life. There’s something distinctly Kant-ian in Mr. Fish’s discovery, although perhaps his journey to reach it reflects more of a Locke mindset. This is what I was given, therefore this is what I should continue to use it for, and I should not accept the input or objections of the others. “They at other times should be shewn what to do, and by reiterated actions be fashion’d beforehand into the practice of what is fit and becoming, and not told and talk’d to do upon the spot, of what they have never been accustom’d nor know how to do as they should. To hare and rate them thus at every turn, is not to teach them, but to vex and torment them to no purpose,” (Locke, Sect. 67).
Strasburger, it would seem, would support the idea of the one experience that was truly interactive (contact rather than conversation) being the experience that led to a new outlook for Mr. Fish. Presumably, Mr. Fish hadn’t experienced kissing before and, once this was introduced into his lexicon, he knew he was destined for it. Rather than writing off new experience, he was finally able to put his gifts into context, learning from them to improve. “Instead, children should be empowered to take control of their own media experiences, negotiating and learning along the way,” (Strasburger, 10).
Lastly, the idea of finding the joy in what our nature is, rather than dwelling on our failings, may be Blake’s most pervasive theme. “How can the bird that is born for joy/ Sit in a cage and sing?” (Blake, “Introduction”). If we relegate ourselves to a station that is unfulfilling, it can hardly be the station we were destined for.
The Enlightenment sought to give the common people the ability to find the knowledge they needed to make their lives better. To search until you find what it is you were meant for is to all but embody this movement. “The Pout-Pout Fish” is a fantastic allegory for this, and we see him achieve his enlightened state when he goes the way of “Kiss-Kiss.”
Blake, <a href=”http://www.blakearchive.org/exist/blake/archive/object.xq?objectid=s-inn.b.illbk.03&java=no”>http://www.blakearchive.org/exist/blake/archive/object.xq?objectid=s-inn.b.illbk.03&java=no</a>
Strasburger, <a href=”https://engl382fall2013.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/strasburger-children-and-adolescents.pdf”>https://engl382fall2013.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/strasburger-children-and-adolescents.pdf</a>