Study Guide

Where the Wild Things Are Primitivity

By Maurice Sendak


Give us your best Tarzan yell, it's time to get primitive! That means giving in to our baser natures, our animal instincts, which Max definitely does when he heads off on his ocean voyage in Where the Wild Things Are. But Max's primitive behavior doesn't start there. He's already behaving like an animal in the first pages of the book. (He is wearing a wolf suit, after all.) And that reminds us that kids are often considered to be more primitive than adults. By the time we're adults, we're supposed to have figured out how to deal with primal feelings and urges, but kids? They're noble savages, and they're just starting to put together all of that good behavior and manners stuff…just like Max. href="https:>

Questions About Primitivity

  1. In what ways does Max act primitively in the book?
  2. At what point in the story do you think Max is at his most primal? What about his least? How do you explain this difference in behavior? What changed or what caused Max to change?
  3. Why do young kids misbehave so much? Seriously. Why do they break rules, test limits, run when they're supposed to walk, and scream and cry when they don't get their way? Are kids just jerks, or is there something else going on in those early years?

Chew on This

When children are born, they're like baby animals, completely dependent upon the adults around them to teach them the difference between good and bad, right and wrong.

Humans may live in houses and make rules to keep order, but they also have primitive instincts that affect their behavior, and these primitive instincts never completely go away.