Book Review: Mr Men #4 - Mr. Nosey
Half of the charm of the Mr. Men is the illustration style. In the main, the Mr. Men are of pleasing shape and colour - they're solid, cheerful and they look like you could give any of them a nice big hug.
Despite the flat two dimensional nature of the drawings it's often easy to envisage the Mr. Men in three dimensions. Mr. Nosey, however, is an exception to that rule. With his impossibly long nose, the three dimensional imagining raises a slew of practical questions. How does Nosey look down to tie his shoelaces? How does he turn around in a narrow passage? How does he wash his face? Just how big are his nostrils?
Mr. Nosey's physicality must be both a gift and a curse. One can only imagine that his olfactory powers are twenty to thirty times that of the other Mr. Men. His imposing conk must also be useful in a bar brawl - one can imagine him easily taking out four or five assailants with a vigorous shake of the head.
The curse of Mr. Nosey soon manifests itself. Our protagonist is the victim of bullying. The residents of Tiddletown come together and decide that Mr. Nosey is, well, too nosy, despite incredibly flimsy evidence. He is curious, granted, but curiosity is a sign of a sharp mind and a thirst for knowledge. Yet, perhaps fuelled by jealousy (is it coincidence that Mr. Nosey is green in colour? Why not blue, yellow or red?) a gang of local tradespeople embark on a series of organised and systematic assaults on Mr. Nosey. A washerwoman casually clips his nose with a clothes-peg, a painter throws paint in his face and a carpenter goes as far as hitting his nose with a hammer! This may all be read as harmless slapstick until the climax of the book veers into slasher movie territory as a farmer brandishes a saw at Nosey, laughing maniacally as he does so.
But Mr. Nosey is beaten by this point. His sprit has been broken. His curiosity has been curbed and, despite showing the world a brave face, Mr. Nosey retreats rather than face more provocation. He ends the story as a timid shadow of his former self.
On the face of it, Mr. Nosey could be a story about nosiness with the moral "mind your own business". But the last impression and message is about bullying and people's seemingly inability to accept physicalities that step beyond the boundaries of the normal.
Perhaps Roger Hargreaves saw bullying as an unfortunate reality that children should be prepared for as early as possible. Whether you share this pessimistic world view or not, the story of Mr. Nosey is an affecting tale that leaves the sour aftertaste of pity and sadness.
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