Little Red Riding Hood is the story of a young girl sent by her mother to cheer up her a sick grandmother. On the way she meets a cunning wolf. The wolf wants to eat her but some woodsmen near by make it impossible for him. But the wolf is cunning enough to make the girl reveal where she is going. On learning that she is going to her grandmother, the wolf is happy he will have two meals. He makes the girl take a long route to the grandmother's place while he takes the shorter. He gets there, eats the grandmother and waits for the girl whom he also eats. Later a wood cutter comes and splits the wolf's stomach saving both the girl and the grandmother.
To an untrained reader, the story Little Red Riding Hood is likely to be read as a mere children bed time story. However a critical reader who possesses analytical skills to deduct deeper meaning will know that the story addresses some very critical issues that are far from anything that can occur to a child's mind. The object of this paper is to identify and examine one theme from the story and the literary technique that the writer uses to develop the story.
In my discussion I choose to discuss the theme of sexuality intertwined with morality. One can see the story as addressing the issue of sexual maturity. The girl goes out on herself and encounters a new phenomenon, discovers her womanhood. To bring out this theme, the writer uses rich symbolism. To begin with the story derives its name from the red color of the girl's hood. This red color can be interpreted as the symbol of the girls menstrual blood, (Orenstein,p.4) a symbol of the girl reaching puberty. Hand-in-hand with this comes the issue of sexual morality. The color red is used to symbolize sexual immorality especially if we consider the time setting of the story. It is set in ancient times during which red was the symbol of scandal and violence, and associated with harlots. The red hood is therefore an indicator that the girl carries sexual sin in her (Becket 45). It also foreshadows her fate; that of encountering a 'wolf' who will, presumably take away her virginity without her intent. Some analysts argue that the color red symbolizes sexual attractiveness and wearing the red hood the girl is setting the spotlight on herself probably unknowingly.
The wolf is yet another symbol in the story. He can be seen as a representation of a man who lacks moral values. Immediately the wolf sees the girl he gets the mind to eat her immediately and only refrains because of the presence of wood cutters nearby. "The wolf thought to himself, 'My, what a tender young creature! I'd eat her now but for those woodsmen close by'." In this interpretation, the wolf comes across as a sexual predator. His sensing of the girl's tenderness indicates the risk she is to her virginity. Needless to say, the eating the 'wolf' did to the girl is euphemism for having sex.
The questions that the girl asks the wolf are further proof of her naivity and inquisitive nature of an adolescent. She was greatly amazed to see how her grandmother looked in her nightclothes, and said to her, "Grandmother, what big arms you have!" "All the better to hug you with, my dear." "Grandmother, what big legs you have!" "All the better to run with, my child." "Grandmother, what big ears you have!" "All the better to hear with, my child." "Grandmother, what big eyes you have!" "All the better to see with, my child..."
In conclusion we can concur that morality and sexuality are addressed deeply in this story but using what one may think is a subtle way. what brings out the theme of sexuality in the story most is that the girl upon being invited into bed strips her clothes without being compelled by anyone yet the 'grandmother' is in her's: "she was greatly amazed to see how her grand mother looked in her nightclothes..." one can not fail to wonder, was the girl already willing to undergo the ordeal she did? If yes this justifies the argument of those claim that she too was sexually sinful. However though she might have been an immoral naïve girl, she is rescued by a woodcutter. This communicate to us that not all men are wolves. The girl is now given another chance to go about life having learnt a lesson.