Gordon the Big Engine – Rev. W. Awdry

More in the Series – The Railway Series
“More in the Series” scores the other books in a series where one (or more) of the books have made it into the 1001 Books list. Mostly because I’m a bit of a completionist. 

POINTS: 1 out of 10.

Bechdel: 0 points
Variety of characters: 0 points
Good story:  1 point
Discretionary ideological points: 0 points

This is the 8th book in the series, and we still don’t have a female engine. This one at least does have two female named characters, if Annie and Clarabel can be counted as two distinct characters (which is arguable, since they function pretty much as a single entity), but since their only “dialogue” is fretting over Thomas’ behaviour, they still fail the Bechdel.

As with the other books, there is no diversity at all – all the human characters (with the exception of the Queen) are white men, and the engines pretty much present that way too.

Ideologically, it’s on the same rocky ground that the previous books are on. Gordon is snobby and conceited and gets his come-uppance for his snobby behaviour, ending up in disgrace. The other engines relish in his misfortune until they have some of their own, and then they all learn their lesson (which is still something like “do what you’re told and be useful”) and as a result they get to meet the Queen.

This is a theme that comes up over and over in these books – that obedience is rewarded and disobedience punished. And while I get where that’s coming from, there’s something about it that I find somewhat distasteful. I mean, sure, Gordon is totally being a snob and thinking that certain kinds of hard work are not good enough for him, and that’s a bad attitude, but it isn’t really that that is being punished so much as something like “you didn’t do what you were told”.

And there is, of course, a timing thing here – this book was published in the 50s, and that was a different time. But I still feel like I need to tell my kid that just because someone is in a position of authority, that doesn’t mean they are always right or even that they should always be blindly obeyed. Which is really what I feel these books are pushing.

In any case, even C got a bit bored while we were reading this one. He gave it a thumbs up, but when we got to the last story he wanted to stop. We picked it up a bit later, and finished it. But nevertheless.

I’m not a fan, and this is, by now, no secret. But even by the standards of the series, this one is a little worse than usual.



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