University of Washington’s Center for Philosophy for Children
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Title and Author: The Big Box by Toni Morrison

Field of Philosophy: Epistemology; Social and political philosophy

Plot Summary: Three children don’t follow certain rules (they do things like talk in the library, yell in the halls, and let squirrels in the family’s fruit trees), and so the adults in their lives conclude that the children “can’t handle their freedom.” Thus the children live together, locked in a “big brown box,” which has “carpets and curtains and beanbag chairs,” large windows, and is full of toys. Their parents visit each week. The children tell the adults, “[I]f freedom is handled just your way, then it’s not my freedom or free.”

Some discussion questions:

Who gets to decide who is free?
Can you be free in your mind even if you’re not free to get out of the place you’re in?
Is there anything in our lives like living in a “big brown box?”
Do we make our own choices?
Can we make choices even if we don’t think we have free will?
What does it mean to have freedom? What is freedom? Is total freedom possible?