Dans le cadre du projet Graines de Critiques Littéraires, les élèves de la terminale L du lycée Saint-Paul (Roanne) ont lu Barbarian Days: A surfing life de William Finnegan. Ils proposent un retour critique en anglais de leur lecture orienté autour d’un mot-clef. Voici la contribution n°3 sur le thème de « l’Enfance ».
What is childhood? Does everyone experience the same moments? Is it really that important?
Every person has a different experience of childhood. Some enjoyed it; some grew up as fast as they could, some as fast as they had to; some didn’t want to become adults, some didn’t have any childhood at all. The point is, childhood is a very important stage of life that will enable you to build yourself as an adult. During this period, you will build your personality, your social skills, everything useful for your adulthood.
There are ups and downs for everyone, and childhood can be positive or negative. Hopefully it will be positive, so the child can grow freely and develop all his potential. Unfortunately, sometimes, events go against the good development of the child, and some people with tough childhood end up having some troubles in their adulthood. This proves the importance of this period.
But how can my childhood influence my whole life? Are we born the adults we are? Would I still do that if something hadn’t happened? Lots of questions yet not as many answers. We can never know what would have happened, we can only acknowledge the fact that this happened, and we had to cope with. That’s how you build yourself during your childhood and your whole life. You keep walking despite the obstacles and the way you manage to do so, defines your personality.
We can say, that childhood is a highly important moment of one’s life and that’s why it is the subject of lots of books. It is obviously linked to biographies, where authors write about their whole life, childhood included. We can then experience someone else’s childhood through their eyes, and question ourselves about our own. It is possible that we won’t see our youth the same way, when we compare it to someone else’s.
Here is the example of a biography, Barbarian Days by William Finnegan, where the author had at first sight, quite a tough time during his younger years. However, we can say that this was a forming part of his life because he discovered that nothing was sure and that sometimes life could be unfair.Indeed, when he moved to Honolulu, he went to a middle school where he was bullied. He was in 8th grade and no one helped him. There was some kind of racism against whites, from which he suffered. Moreover, he had no friends because he just moved and his parents didn’t know that they should have put him in a private secondary school.
He was alone. School bored him.
He used to fight with the boys of his school; it was like a formation.
Yet, he was happy at first to move to Hawaii because of the surf culture, and the fact that he could surf in this legendary island. However, this was not what he expected and he couldn’t surf in the area he lived in. Besides he had no one to surf with.
But he was recruited in a ‘gang’ of white people and the bullies at school started letting him alone. Then, he began making friends thanks to his passion for surfing and he was neither alone nor bored anymore.
We can say in the case of the author that his childhood was not that difficult. He didn’t have friends when he moved and he was bullied, but it rapidly stopped and he started making friends thanks to his passion. This was more a period of formation than a tough one, and it probably started to change him into the man he is now.
But this notion is often represented in fiction, where the author can create the ‘perfect’ childhood that will make their character change. Everything is subtle, and the change takes some time, but at the end the reader can witness that. All the events created by the author have a purpose, which is to influence the people that will read their book.
We can take two well-known examples of books about childhood: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (from The Chronicles of Narnia) by C. S. Lewis and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. These books have more similarities than we can think. First, the main characters are children; second, they go in a fantastic universe whose existence is questionable; third, they live experiences that will make them mature.
In fact, these worlds (Narnia and Wonderland) are the metaphor of the imagination of the children. The adventures are the metaphor of the different obstacles they will have to face in their life. The story is exaggerated, so the children can feel like they are the heroes of their own life, and they can become more self-confident and more self-reliant.
This type of fiction shows how important childhood is in the well-being and the development of an adult. Indeed, we can see that at the end of both stories, children have evolved and have become more mature. The Pevensie children had the opportunity to live their whole life in Narnia as respectable and respected queens and kings, before they went back to the normal world as children. This experience gave them the chance to mature and to build themselves as adults.
In Lewis Carroll’s book, Alice changes throughout her adventures with the different characters. She changes physically first, because of the cakes she has to eat and the potions she has to drink. But we can also say, that she changes mentally because at first she tries to use her knowledge to understand this world, but then she understands that she can’t. It enables her to find another way of thinking and to stop relying on what she was taught; she has to manage on her own (just like the Pevensies).
By the evolution of the characters and all the obstacles they have to go through, the author empowers the young readers who can relate to the story. They can even find sometimes a way to overcome their own problems thanks to these examples. That’s why these books are so important for children.
So what is childhood?,In a word, it is the most important part of one’s life. You learn how to behave, you build your personality. You create the draft of your adulthood.