Mr. Tickle (Mr. Men Classic Library) (Paperback) Review By
Hargreaves' first work, and regarded by many as his masterpiece, Mr Tickle is something of a rarity amongst the Mr Men books. Elsewhere, we see much exposition on the pitfalls of excess - such as in Mr Greedy and Mr Messy, for instance - but a distinct lack of discourse on personalities that are over- rather than under-regulated. A case in point might be another work, Mr Fussy, which stands out as an opportunity glaringly missed. Despite a faintly ridiculing tone to the prose, this is essentially a lamentation on how others cannot live up to the high ideals and perfectionism of its titular central character. It is at best an ambiguous critique of repression, and Mr Fussy escapes the moral judgment so often dished out to others in the series.
So what a glorious anomaly we find in Mr Tickle - a breath of fresh air from the unrestrained id. The all-consuming sensual delight he offers relentlessly disrupts the social order. A postman drops all his letters in a puddle, the tickling of a policeman causes a traffic jam, and the unbearable reverie he inflicts upon a station master brings the local rail network to a temporary standstill. There is something almost Bakhtinian about the manner in which he tickles a dour schoolmaster until he loses control in front of his class.
But Mr Tickle is not Stirner's Egoist, nor does he proclaim `do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law'. And if he is a terrorist, his weapons are laughter and ecstasy. Though his principal targets may well be those who wear uniforms - those who exercise, embody and therefore are most in the grip of Authority - we would be mistaken to think that Hargreaves' purpose is to challenge the external Social Order. Rather, it is to loosen the vice-like grip of an interior foe: the overdeveloped Superego.
We note that Mr Tickle himself is no slave to sensory delight - quite the opposite; he is a model of psychical equilibrium. At the end of his day's escapades he relaxes in an armchair, sated and quiescent. Our hero preaches a message of catharsis - a call to arms against becoming too bogged down by self-suppression and normative regulation. Via psychoanalysis, we arrive at an Aristotlean middle way, and are left with the gentle realisation of our need to give a measure of expression to desire and joy.
Because one thing we can be sure of is that the more we repress the pleasure principle, the more we guarantee that sooner or later we will fall victim to an overpowering and fervid release from the id.
And rest assured, it will be at just that hour we fail our Superego the most.