Vn101.1 The Death of Robin Hood 9/29/77

“Did Robin Hood really die in the charge of the Light Brigade?”
This peculiar question of Miriam’s, rising from no external cue that I
noticed, recurrently perplexes me. Its background is this. Months ago,
Robby, Miriam, and I watched the movie “Robin Hood” wherein Errol Flynn
performed at his swashbuckling best. Both children stayed awake to the
end. Miriam saw Flynn again on film in “The Charge of the Light Brigade.”
It appears that Miriam identified Geoffrey Vickers, the character Flynn
played in the latter movie, with Robin Hood, the character he played in
the former. Further, she identifies Flynn (if one can even say she
accords him independent existence) with Robin Hood.

The perplexity this question raises is whether or not this exemplifies
a sense in which children’s thinking is concrete. An alternate interpretation
is that the child is not sufficiently knowledgeable in encoding symbolic
descriptions — consequently, he just gets it all wrong, but in such a way as
to make it appear that his encoding is “object-fixed.”

Miriam answered her Robin Hood question after a short pause. “Oh
no, that’s silly. . . .” but she still left me puzzled. When later I raised
the issue again obliquely, she asked whether Robin Hood was still alive
or not after averring she did not believe he died in the charge of the
Light Brigade. The ensuing discussion between Robby and Miriam indicated
both are confused. Miriam believed we had seen a film of the battle it-
self. Robby disbelieved the immediate reality of the filmed battle but
stated he felt the actors in the film were the people who had really been
in the battle (he later changed his mind).

This example of a small confusion suggests one way through which
children, while living in a constructed, representational, mental reality
of the same sort as an adult’s, may appear to think very “concretely” in
contrast to the more “abstract” thought of an adult. Lacking the effective
knowledge that a story character may be represented by an actor,
Miriam has bound too tightly to the character of Robin Hood and Geoffrey
Vickers in her story frames the impression made by the actor Errol Flynn.
To the extent that a structure of frames is insufficiently rich, with the
consequence that the ranges of terminal values are restricted, the
representations of the frame will appear concrete; the complexity and
abstractness of adult thought derive from enriching intermediate levels
of frame-like structures.

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