The renowned African American author Maya Angelou said it best as she spoke the words “Children’s talent to endure stems from their ignorance of alternatives.” I believe that this enduring resiliency of the youth comes from the fact that children are innocents who, for a major part of their lives, know nothing except that which is taught to them by the people around them. Children take this to be a truth and live by the credo of the people whom they emulate. As I read the stories of Joseph in the King James Bible, Eng from the story Fathering by Mukherjee, and finally Sarty in The Burning by Faulkner, I came to realize that each story shows us in part how a child tends to deal with the atrocities of their lives and how slowly, these events affect the child in such a manner that they are forced to mature in their innocent way for that is the only way they know how to survive.
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King James Bible
Take for instance the story of Joseph. He was a special child who was meant for great things in life — with or without the help of his family. Being an innocent boy with a special gift, he turned to his siblings for help when he needed their understanding and explanation about why he was dreaming things. Instead of love, support and understanding, they drove him away from the family due to envy and fear. Joseph was forced to survive on his willpower. His will to survive and his innocence regarding the evil of the world was what helped him to achieve eventual greatness and also helped him continue to love his kin even after the despicable treatment they gave him.
Fathering by Mukherjee
While Eng, from the short story by Mukherjee entitled “Fathering”, shows us that sometimes, the evil of this world is too much for the most innocent souls to handle. That war is a battle fought not only by the soldiers of opposing parties, but it is an intensely emotional, mental, and physical battle for those war victims who have no voice. That of the children of the land. Their innocence protects them from further damage by immersing them in a make-believe world where everything is a story, playtime, or simply make-believe. It helps them to survive when they do not realize that they are being hurt by the things around them. Unfortunately, when the worst is over for these wartime children, they are also sometimes irreparably destroyed by that very thing that is used to protect them. Their innocence can no longer help them discern the new reality from that which they previously experienced. This is when they need help, support, and love the most. Sadly, this is also the time when the adults whom they cling to for exactly that turn on them and seemingly refuse to understand where the child came from and that the child means no harm upon anybody, most especially themselves and their family.
The Burning by Faulkner
Sarty, the son of the evil farmer, on the other hand, shows us that children eventually grow out of childhood and learn to discern good and evil for themselves. He also proves that one cannot judge the personality and traits of a child based upon the family that he comes from for he may be an exception to what is considered the norm for that particular family. Safety is an exemplary child for he learned about right and wrong, good and bad on his own and he chose to break away from those people whom he knew would eventually destroy his reputation and his life. For no family should ever force a child to lie for the protection of another member of the family or the family as a whole.
Reflections and conlusion
In my opinion, the one common denominator of these three fictional children is the fact that they are all innocents in a world where innocence seems to have no place. Each of these children came into this world as a blank slate, ready to be written upon. A piece of clay if you will, waiting to be molded into that which will help make him a person worthy of a place in this world. The problem is that they are destroyed by the people around them instead. Their innocence and lack of comprehension of the things happening around them served as their survival guide because they would not know of any other life or choice for a very long time.
Although all three fictional children hit a nerve within me, the one that struck the strongest chord was the story of Sarty. For there is a real Sarty in my life. A cousin of mine was raised by a spinster aunt upon the demise of her mother. The woman who raised her was a tyrant who controlled her by instilling fear and physical abuse upon my cousin while she was growing up. Raised in a solitary atmosphere and not having any outside influence in her life until she started school, my cousin was rarely a part of family occasions and when she was present, she was often shy and reserved. Seemingly afraid of people. I thought she was strange before but then I once witnessed her being beaten and humiliated by my aunt when she thought nobody was looking because of a small infraction at a party on my cousin’s part. Later, I tried to console my cousin and when I told her that being slapped was simply wrong, she told me “I deserved it. I should have known better.” I told her “That is just it, you are just a child. You don’t deserve this.” In my cousin’s innocence, she had no idea of any other treatment except that which she was raised in. Eventually, she started going to school and learning about her rights as a person. She began to develop her personality and, although unable to leave our aunt for several reasons, she fought for her right to be treated fairly, her innocence that once protected her because she knew nothing else, now served to help her gain her life, personality, and self respect back. Guess what? She emerged victorious after all. Just as Sarty broke free of the unfair bonds of his family on that fateful day in Mr. De Spain’s barn.