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Toys (Mythologies, trans. Annette Lavers)

1973

by Roland Barthes (1915 - 1980)

More specifically ‘French toys’, this short essay remarks on the way French children are only supplied with playthings that are miniaturised items from the adult world, complete with socialised, bourgeois meaning, rather than more dynamic, creative toys (sets of blocks being one exception).

The toys not only direct the child into limited ideas of occupation and agency, conditioning little girls to be mothers or hairdressers, but also reveal much about what ‘the adult does not find unusual: war, bureaucracy, ugliness…’ The conclusion, an elegy for wooden toys in the age of plastic, shows the paradoxical intersection between post-modernism and retro-traditionalism.

Related recommendation: Primo Levi’s ‘Stable/Unstable’ (in Other People’s Trades, 1989); JB Priestley’s ‘The Toy Farm’ (1927)

Origin: France

Themes: Familiar Examined Afresh, Independent Thinking, Raising Children

Genres: Critical

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