Edward Gorey (1925-2000) was an American writer and illustrator of “children’s” books that satirized Victorian and Edwardian Britain. He was born in Chicago in 1925 and later attended Harvard University. His books contain dark satire, often depicting characters who experience tragic deaths that are, in a way, tragically humorous. However, Gorey did not necessarily consider his work satirical. He referred to his work as “literary nonsense” in the same vein as Lewis Carroll. Gorey began his publishing career as an illustrator of various books such as Bram Stoker’s Dracula and H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds. He went on to write and illustrate over 100 books in his characteristic pen and ink, hashmark style.
In this activity, students will analyze the satire of Gorey's "children's book" "The Gashlycrumb Tinies" by discussing how the author uses setting and repetition to create dark humor and satirize the Victorian Period. Students will then create their own alphabet primers in the style of Edward Gorey.
This is an interesting activity to complete around Halloween time or during a study on Gothic literature.
Please be forewarned that Edward Gorey's writing is satire or even absurd-- but not necessarily for the faint of heart. Please review "The Gashlycrumb Tinies" for appropriateness to determine if his work is fit for your students and school.
This lesson plan does not contain the original text or illustrations of Gorey's short story; however, it can be found online as a .pdf file-- or perhaps, in your local library or bookstore.
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