“The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.”
Maggot Moon, by Sally Gardner, is a dystopian fable, which follows dyslexic protagonist Standish Treadwell. Standish resides in an almost alternate reality, in which the ‘Motherland’ has taken control of 1950’s England. The book utilizes various metaphors and abstractionism in order to convey an original and refreshing take on the limits of our imagination.
The following paragraphs will begin to highlight the main themes of the story, and hopefully provide the reader with a clearer understanding of this critically acclaimed book.
Maggot Moon is a story that involves multiple characters, each of undoubtable significance. However, like all well-crafted stories, the main character bears the most importance. Standish Treadwell is severely dyslexic, and he views the world in ways deemed unreasonable by his fellow peers and teachers. Standish is fairly-modestly built, with scruffy black hair. His only unique quality being his eyes, one green, one blue. “” “I didn’t notice it before,’ he said. “You have different colored eyes: one blue and the other, a light brown.” “” (Gardner, 99). The different eye colors are used to signify a difference, a difference of thought, culture, and belief. It signifies Standish as a person: Unique, yet innately beautiful.
Treadwell’s beliefs consist of righteous ideologies, thus, he believes against the power of the ‘Motherland’. His beliefs lead him to be identified as a danger to the government’s totalitarian regime, which could possibly be compared to Nazi Germany. His beliefs set the plot for the rest of the story.
Standish is also viewed as rebellious, thus, he experiences constant prejudice at his school. The following quote is Standish’s narration of a fight with his teacher, Mr. Gunnell. “I hadn’t even noticed it. I tasted the blood in my mouth, felt my nose and thought, at least it isn’t broken.” (Gardner, 73)
Maggot Moon is a book containing multiple themes, each of which bearing utmost importance, however, the most present is the importance of imagination. The story displays that our greatest asset is our imagination, a theme of much significance.
Standish Treadwell was born to a less privileged family, residing in an area known simply as Zone 7, a camp designated to possible traitors to the ‘Motherland’. “You don’t see many of them, civilians that is, in Zone 7,”(Gardner, 37). The people of Zone 7 experienced daily prejudice in all aspects of life, in terms of education, housing, and healthcare. This forces Standish to utilize his imagination in order to escape the dismal, melancholic reality he was forced to live. According to the WIRED magazine, feeling a sense of disdain or depression can lead to a significant increase in one’s creative ability. This justifies Standish’s unusual sense of space, time, and possibility. “Me and Hector instead liked to think about our planet, Juniper… I was sure that all we needed to do was get a message to planet Juniper and they would come and rescue the world,” (Gardner, 67-68). The quote above displays the vast limits of Standish’s imagination, and the power his imagination possesses. Standish’s imagination is nothing but an escape from the brutal, cold reality of Zone 7, and to Standish, is hope.
Standish’s grandfather, who later becomes a key figure in the story, once tells Standish, “you see, the what ifs are as boundless as the stars,” (Gardner, 169). The quote displays how Standish’s grandfather encourages and even supports Standish’s vivid imagination. He believes in its utmost importance, and understands it may be their only hope to defeating the ‘Motherland’.
Standish’s imagination is more than simply a tool and escape from reality however. Standish utilizes his imagination to make sense of worldly matters.
“It’s the frickin reality that destroys plans,” (Gardner, 126) . His unique perspectives bring refreshing conceptual understanding to the story, and highlights imagination as a key asset in multiple situations.
Maggot Moon’s plot and setting have extremely unique qualities, mainly being a dystopian fiction with events associating with the past. According to Sally Gardner, the highly acclaimed author of Maggot Moon, the story takes inspiration from our modern history. The setting is a portrayal of 1960’s England if it was controlled by Nazi Germany. The book also incorporates many modern day discussion points such as the Apollo 11 moon landing conspiracy, and Soviet Russia’s ‘Motherland.’
The book itself seems also to take inspiration from multiple other modern-classics. Sally Gardner’s writing techniques bear much similarity to those of R. J. Palacio, the author of Wonder. The basic, fundamental concepts of both books are extremely similar, such as oppression, incongruity, and courage, and I enjoyed both thoroughly.
Standish himself bears few similar traits to me as a person, bar his independence as a thinker. Standish is extremely independent, as he tends to refute or even refuse an idea if it doesn’t stand by his moral compass. I believe independence is a vital skill, as it allows for a contradictory blend of ideas when in work with others. Learning to support oneself is fundamental for success of any kind, and without it, our world would cease to be the hub of innovation it proves to be today. In my school work, I enjoy working independently, as it allows me to build on my ideas while also pushing me to produce my best work. Some of my most successful school work has been worked on independently, and I believe without independence, development of any kind is impossible.
In all, Maggot Moon is a book that strays away from generic, text-book ideologies, and is a refreshing take on imagination in our world today. The book, while projecting a grim future, serves as a reminder of the importance of boundless creativity and imagination.