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Literature / The Hare and the Pineapple

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"The Hare and the Pineapple" is a short story by Daniel Pinkwater that appeared on a New York State English exam for 8th grade students in 2012.

The story involves a hare and a pineapple having a race; the actual details are a lot stranger than that, despite the story only being a few paragraphs long. It would have gone unnoticed like any test story if it weren't for the absurdity. As such, this story stirred up a lot of controversy, due to the bizarre plot and incomprehensible questions that followed. The story was modified from a story within Pinkwater's book Borgel; according to Pinkwater it was modified to be even more bizarre by the testmakers, to his chagrin.

Read it here.

This work contains examples of:

  • An Aesop: The written moral is "Pineapples don't have sleeves", apparently. If explained with the context of the story; the moral is "Don't overestimate people, they really can be that stupid".
  • Batman Gambit: Subverted. The animals think the pineapple is trying to make them look like fools, with them being expected to cheer on the hare, who would then lose to the pineapple. So, they try to beat the pineapple by rooting for it, instead. The race comes, and...turns out the pineapple can't even move, so it had no big plan at all.
  • The Big Race: The pineapple challenges the hare to a major race, twenty-six miles, which takes even the fast-moving hare two hours to complete.
  • Devoured by the Horde: The story ends with the animals eating the (sentient and talking) pineapple, possibly because they were annoyed that it lost the race.
  • Dream-Crushing Handicap: Despite everything, in the end, the pineapple has no chance of winning the race, because it's a pineapple, and pineapples can't run.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: Only takes place over the timespan of the two-hour race and the discussion between the animals right before.
  • Fantastic Aesop: That pineapples are, in fact, still inanimate objects - which isn't as obvious in a fantasy world where they can talk.
  • Hanlon's Razor: Everyone but the hare and the owl believed the pineapple was a mastermind that planned to outsmart the hare in the race. Only for the pineapple to lose the race because it was immobile, it was too busy bragging to remember that it couldn't move.
  • Inanimate Competitor: The pineapple itself, which just sits at the starting line and does nothing, like a real pineapple would.
  • Literal-Minded: When the moose suspects that the pineapple has a trick up its sleeve, the owl responds that "pineapples don't have sleeves".
  • Mind Screw: The reason for the controversy; the story was so confusing and surreal that, in combination with the questions, nobody had any idea what was going on.
  • Nameless Narrative: None of the animals (or the pineapple) are given names.
  • The Owl-Knowing One: The owl is the animal who delivers the moral of the story ("pineapples don't have sleeves").
  • Seemingly Profound Fool: Everyone thinks the pineapple knows what it's doing and has some clever plan to win the race. It really doesn't.
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: The other animals bet on the pineapple winning because they didn't want to look foolish, they believed the pineapple must have had a plan if it challenged the hare. When the race starts; the hare not only wins, but the pineapple didn't even move an inch from the starting line because it was immobile. The animals fooled themselves into believing a pineapple could win a race.
  • Simple-Minded Wisdom: The owl, who takes the other animals' speculation literally and says that pineapples don't have sleeves, turns out to be right about that in a metaphorical way as well.
  • Slow and Steady Wins the Race: The story builds up the expectation that the pineapple will find a way to beat the hare, with the animals even discussing how the hare will likely make a mistake out of arrogance. The pineapple doesn't even move, and the hare wins.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Despite the pineapple challenging the hare to the race, and all the animals expecting the pineapple to actually race, the pineapple just sits at the start line, because pineapples can't move on their own.
  • Talking Animal: The first paragraph explains that, in the olden days, all the animals could speak English, just like humans. The Pineapple can speak English, too.
  • Too Clever by Half: The animals, who spend a lot of time thinking of what clever trick the pineapple is and trying to make sure it won't humiliate them. Turns out they were really overthinking.
  • Underdogs Never Lose: Subverted. The animals are sure that the pineapple must win because of this trope. They are wrong.