Please be Patient while this page Loads.. . .

By The Satirical Rogue

    The Story
    The Cat
    The Hen
    The Dog and Cow
    The Automobile and the Boat
    The Steam-Shovel
    Works Cited

Title-page of 'Are You My Mother'



    Often ignored by the Catholic Exegetes, and rarely discussed in the leading apologetic journals, P.D. Eastman's classic tale, "Are You My Mother," is a beautiful and important allegorical story, which serves as a warning to the millions of non-believing men and women who populate this earth. Though most readers see only a superficial plot meant for children under ten years of age, I will interpret it in a more critical and introspective manner, and elucidate upon Eastman's methodology, epistemology, and meaning.
    To begin with, it is important to discuss in detail the author of this tale, P.D. Eastman. A Pseudonym, P.D. Eastman was originally believed, (by Pope John Paul II,) to be the non-de-plume of Cardinal Vespuchio Garlopopolis. When interviewed, Garlopopolis denied any hand in its writing or publication, but did expound upon his belief that it was written in the fifteenth century by Mary, Queen of Scots. (Garlopopolis, p.921)
    It will be remembered that Mary, a strong and faithful Catholic, was imprisoned by the bastard Queen Elizabeth, and eventually beheaded. Garlopopolis believes that Mary wrote "Are You My Mother" for her son, in an effort to teach him Catholicism while remaining safe from the Protestant Queen's wrath. (Garlopopolis, p.923-945)
    Though historical documentation is lacking, we find the theory of Cardinal Garlopopolis holds up better than other, more ridiculous, theories. For instance, it would be silly to believe that Sir Francis Bacon wrote it for his children after learning that a chicken can be frozen in ice, as propounded by anti-war novelist Norman Mailer. Equally ludicrous is Madonna's claim that Sean Penn had it written by an Indian guru, in the hopes of reading it to his children, were they ever to be conceived.
    Whoever did, in fact, write "Are You My Mother," and whatever cryptographic or numerological meaning lay in the name P.D. Eastman, it's Catholic undertones and intimations cannot be ignored.

    The Story:

    In the beginning of the story, we are introduced to a small baby bird, recently hatched.

A bird. Symbol of Everyman, us, we, them, everyone.Fig.1

    As was stated in the introduction, the majority of readers will miss the obvious symbolism contained in this illustration, even though it seems glaring once noted. Eastman wasted no time in his story, but immediately began to write and expound upon his Catholic views.
    The three leaves in Fig.1 represent the Trinity, the first major Catholic creed. Notice that the nest and the baby bird  are both supported by these three leaves, just as we Catholics, (the bird,) and the Church, (the nest,) are supported by the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We find the allusion to the Nicene Creed:

        We believe in one God {...} And in one Lord Jesus Christ {...} born of the Father  before all ages. (God of God) light of light, true God of true God. Begotten   not made, consubstantial to the Father, by whom all things were made. {...} And was incarnate of the Holy Ghost and of the Virgin Mary and was made man {...) And (I believe) in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceeds from the Father (and the Son), who together with the Father and the Son is to be adored and glorified, who spoke by the Prophets. And one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. {...} (Catholic Encyclopedia)

    We notice that the bird in Fig.1 is happy and contented, as we all are when in the bosom of the One True Faith. The bird is smiling, and stretching his wings in a bright new world which was created by God. The bird's day is filled with promise and beauty. Indeed, we of the Catholic faith feel a distinct and powerful connection with this bird, knowing how he feels when waking up to the power and mystery of God's earth.
    But alas, this charmed life does not last, as the bird soon begins to question the existence of his mother. (None other than the Virgin Mary, Mother of God and Creation.) Because the bird does not have faith, he begins to look around for nourishment and encouragement, not understanding that patience will reward him, but the lack of it will cause his down-fall.
    So after a few moments of looking around for an answer that is not easily reached, (as true understanding comes only to those very patient, wise individuals who look well at Scripture and the world,) the baby bird decides that his mother is not around, and commits to searching for her.
    But before he can search, he must abandon his nest, which is suspended in the heavens by the strength of the Pope, (the thick tree trunk, not visible in Fig.1, but implied) and travel the world in search of answers.
    But without a firm belief in the True Faith, as evinced in the tree that is Catholicism, (the Trinity, the infallibility of the Pope, the importance of Church, and the Virgin Mary,) he cannot fly, or, interpreted, he cannot be saved.

The Dreaded Fall from Grace!!!Fig.2

    In Fig.2, he abandons the Catholic church, and falls from grace. All because of doubt! Eastman accents the terrible poignancy of this fall by lucidly writing, "Down, down, down! It was a long way down," (p.17.) emphasizing the distance between True Faith, and false doctrine.
    In the bird's fall, we see our fall from grace, but more importantly, we recognize a warning to those who stray from the righteous path. The bird is now alone, cannot fly, and needs a mother.
    So he begins his search.. . .

    The Cat:

  This is a CAT. Can YOU say CAT?Fig.3

    His first contact with a spurious faith, and a spurious mother, is a cat, which represents the mysticism of Gnosticism, which, indecently, was the first real threat to Catholicism. To quote the Catholic Encyclopedia again:

     {Gnosticism was} a collective name for a large number of greatly-varying and pantheistic-idealistic sects, which flourished from some time before the Christian Era down to the fifth century, and which, while borrowing the phraseology and some of the tenets of the chief religions of the day, and especially of Christianity, held matter to be a deterioration of spirit, and the whole universe a depravation of the Deity, and taught the ultimate end of all being to be the overcoming of the grossness of matter and the return to the Parent-Spirit, which return they held to be inaugurated and facilitated by the appearance of some God-sent Savior.  (Catholic Encyclopedia)

    But the bird questions the cat, (an examination of the Gnostic faith,) and realizes that, no, this is not my mother. 
    So he continues his search:

    The Hen:


    Soon he comes to a hen, (Fig.4) which immediately seems promising to the naive bird, as they both have similar, physical traits. They both have wings, feathers, and a beak. Might this, wonders the bird, be my mother?
    The hen allegory represents the Protestant faith, which has many similarities to Catholicism, but is not Catholicism, just as a hen and a sparrow are indeed both birds, and members of the same genus, but are not members of the same species.
    So the bird, Everyman, queries the hen, and realizes that it is not his mother.
    On with his search:

    The Dog and Cow:

DOG. (duh)Fig.5

    The dog, (Fig.5) or the independence of Atheism, is not the birds mother.


    The cow, (Fig.6) which represent the Hindu faith, is, sadly for the lonely bird, not his mother, either.
    The Hindu cow is the last Faith which the bird questions, and finding that no religion ameliorates his loneliness, he begins his search anew, with a new sense of immediacy. "'I did have a mother,' said the baby bird, "I know I did. I have to find her. I will. I WILL!" (p.37.)
    With this renewed since of immediacy, the bird begins to run towards the trappings of mankind.

    The Automobile and the Boat:

Don't Drink and Drive!Fig.7

    He comes to the automobile in Fig.7, (materialism,) but sees that it does not operate, just as materialism offers no true fulfillment. 

A Spurious FaithFig.8

    He finds the boat (Fig.8) next. The boat is perhaps one of Eastman's most powerful and symbolic creations, as it beautifully represents all forms of false doctrines. The boat is traveling on a serine, placid river, away from the reader, just as non-Catholic faith offers only a spurious promise of serenity. We notice that there are two crosses on the boat, which represent the two thieves crucified with Christ, but Christ is missing. Emanating from that empty space, which should contain Christ, we see the three puffs of smoke, which are the ethereal qualities of the Holy Trinity, drifting backwards and away from the boat which is our false belief. 
    The boat is not the mother of the bird.

    The Steam-Shovel:

Our Salvation, the Steam-ShovelFig.9

    Fig.9 is the final image confronted by the bird before his apotheosis and salvation. The choice of a steam-shovel is perhaps Eastman's most muddled and obtuse allegory, but an appropriate analysis can be reached, when we recall the words of an authority on steam-shovels:

    Watch the ... steam ... shovels ... they are ... pointing ... to ...our final ... conversion. (Davis, p.27-89)

    Realizing this, we can see what Eastman was attempting to do: He was postulating that our technological advances, our destruction of old mythologies, and our spiritual/social/psychobiological advancements would bring us back to the one true faith, without which we are doomed. The steam-shovel scoops the bird up, and places it back in its nest, where the bird, as Everyman, belongs.
    When firmly back in the bosom of the one True Faith, the Catholic Church, which demands we hold to the tenants of Catholicism as evinced in the Council of Trent, Nicea, etc.:

Against the heretical tenets of various times and sects we must hold

    Only when these tenants and beliefs are embraced as the Word of God, and therefore His Laws, are we truly saved.


    Our bird, the allegorical representation of Everyman, after searching far and wide, throughout history and time, finds that he was born into the True Faith, and only by his sin and ignominy did he fall from that height of Grace. But when he returns to the Catholic Church, repents of his mendacity and sinful nature, does he find the Mother (The Virgin Mary,) and therefore the peace, he was searching for. See Fig.10:

The ludicrously happy ending: Man reunited with the One True FaithFig.10


    P.D. Eastman, whether it is a pseudonym, a numerological symbol, or the true name of the writer, (although that seems ludicrous,) was a passionate and righteous Catholic, who worried about the fate of his fellow men. Refusing to sit back and allow our children to be taught a damning faith, he raged against the false doctrines of those commonly held by humanity, and loudly clamored for the return to Catholicism. We must recognize Eastman's importance in the liturgical community, in the Catholic literary tradition, and, perhaps in the future, we can look forward to the canonization of Saint Eastman, Patron Saint of Doubting Tommys. 


    Works Cited:

    "The Catholic Encyclopedia":

    Davis, Jim. "Garfield Takes the Cake." p.27, 29, 34, 40, 41, 64, 89, 91. Doubleday & Co. New York. 1984.

    Garlopopolis, Cardinal Vespuchio. "P.D. Eastman: His Identity, Our Salvation." p.921, 923-945. New Catholic Press. Vatican. 1976.

    Eastman, P.D. "Are You My Mother?" Beginner Books. New York. 1960.


Hobbes after finishing his final version of the weighty tome, 'Leviathan:'
Aaron Paul Bell