Monday, January 18, 2010

Babe: A Little Pig Goes A Long Way by Susanne Lakin

Today, Susanne Lakin pulls the themes from Babe. Please welcome her once again this Manuscript Monday.

Babe: A Little Pig Goes a Long Way

by Susanne Lakin

Who would have thought such a simple, small children's book would have become such a blockbuster movie? Babe excels in a number of ways—mostly because there are some great themes. The most obvious one has to do with one's "purpose" in life.

Babe finds himself lonely at Farmer Hoggett's farm. He soon learns that every animal on the farm has a purpose--and so he goes about trying to discover what his might be.
Babe experiences a saving twist of fate, for Farmer Hoggett is a keen believer in divine purpose. His character is concerned with everything having a place, everything functioning efficiently. The symbol that ties in with this theme of purpose is "the gate."

Using this subtle but powerful element, the screenwriter keeps us coming back to Hoggett tweaking his gate. His aim is to have the gate close with a gentle touch and lock with the least amount of extra effort. Likewise, he wants his farm to run smoothly, and part of that involves his dogs herding the sheep into their pens for various reasons. When he sees how Babe has acquired a knack for herding these sheep effortlessly, his attention rivets on Babe. Here is a pig with a destiny--with a purpose. Perhaps it is an unusual one. But Hoggett is not one to give a hoot what anyone else thinks--even when hundreds of people are laughing at him as he strides out into the arena with Babe as his "sheep herding dog" to compete in the time trials. He doesn't enter Babe so he can get attention or laughs, or to become famous or notorious. He enters Babe because it makes perfect sense. Babe is an excellent sheep dog, despite his porcine nature, and it is only logical for him to compete and earn the recognition deserved for his skills.

By the end of the movie, Hoggett's gate closes perfectly, and Babe ends his sheep dog trial--to the astonishment of the now-silent audience--with Hoggett only making one simple move: lifting his hand to close the gate behind the sheep Babe has properly herded into the pen.

The audience in the stands jumps to their feet and cheers--and those watching the movie feel the same exhilaration. Babe and Hoggett have faced all odds and humiliating jeers and the weight of others' disbelief in them. But they shine victoriously because they proved faithful to their calling. They found their purpose in life and grabbed it by both hands, despite every possible obstacle and discouragement. This theme is huge when you realize the movie is not about a pig that just happens to have some special skills--that's not the theme at all. Because Babe explores a universal theme that each one of us struggles with daily--how to find our purpose in life and fulfill it--this movie met with enormous success. Once you realize there are two kinds of stories--stories "with a purpose" and stories "without a purpose" you will understand what you need to make your novel a breakout success.

C. S. Lakin writes contemporary literary mysteries and allegorical fantasy. She is completing her ninth novel and has had four novels contracted in 2009 for publication. She considers herself somewhat schizophrenic, having two agents and two genres she works in, but it’s always an adventure! When not writing, she earns her living as a professional copy editor and writing coach, always in search of the perfect sentence. For more information about her books, click over to her Web site.