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Essay/Term paper: Coming of age- small town influences

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Persuasive Essays

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There comes a time is each person's life when they reach the point where they are no
longer children, but adults. The transition from a child into a young adult is often
referred to as the "coming of age," or growing up. The time when this transition occurs is
different in everyone, since everyone is an individual and no two people are alike.
Certain children reach this stage through a tragic, painful event which affects them to
such extent that they are completely changed. Other children reach this time by simply
growing older and having a better understanding of the world around them. The coming
of age really is indefinite and cannot be marked in general overview. This stage in life is
one of the most important and most popular themes in literature. The coming of age
theme is found in one of the one of the best coming to age stories that have ever been
written. Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird is a sensitive touching portrayal of a
young boy who grows up through shocking yet realistic events.

Although many people are only aware of the coming of age theme through
literature and other forms of entertainment, there is also a very realistic part to this event
in a person's life which is often ignored. The coming of age is an event which is often
celebrated in many different cultures, through rituals or ceremonies. The rituals, also
known as passage rites, mark the passing of a person from one stage of life to the next:
birth, infancy, childhood, adulthood, old age, and death. The coming of age is celebrated
along with birth, and death because it is known as a universal life crises. Evoking
anxiety, these crises often elicit passage rites. Arnold Van Gennep stated that "Passage
rituals have three steps: separation from society; inculcation-transformation; and return to
society in the new status." (1995, Grolier Encyclopedia)

All passage rituals serve certain universal functions. "They serve to dramatize the
encounter of new responsibilities, opportunities, dangers. They alleviate disruption in the
equilibrium of the community. They affirm community solidarity, and the sacredness of
common values." (1995, Grolier Encyclopedia)

In addition, cultures use initiation ceremonies to mark the transition from
childhood to adult status. Rites for males are usually more elaborate and dramatic and
generally involve the community more than do those for females. Among the African
Gusii, for example, girls are at about age nine, boys at twelve years old; Thonga boys
may be sixteen. Boys rites often involve seclusion from women, hazing by older males,
test of manliness, and genital operations, including circumcision. Girls rites are just as
bad if not worse with things like removal of the clitoris. In some places in North
America, the ritual is individual where as in Africa and Oceania the ritual can be
collective. A plain Indian adolescent boy undertakes a vision quest; he goes out alone
into the wilderness, endures hardship, and seeks a vision from his animal guardian spirit;
if he gets one, he returns a man.

Yet a different way for these rituals is group rituals. These often takes months or
even years, as among many Australian aboriginal tribes. Novices learn great quantities of
information and obey countless taboos. Instructors are men who are strangers to boys.
Ritual pulls the boy from childhood, especially from his mother. He moves from the
category of women and privileged children toward the privileged one of the adult males.
Such rites maintain adult male togetherness and strengthen cultural continuity. They
resolve boys conflicts about sexual identity and establish clear attitudes toward fathers
and mothers. Such rites dramatize the power of older over younger males and state that
"only women can make babies: but only men can make men." (1995, Grolier
Encyclopedia)
Such passage rites symbolize death of the child and rebirth as a man, as well as male
envy of females. Versions in modern Western society includes religious, confirmation,
fraternity initiation, and military training.

In addition to the different ways that culture celebrates the coming of age it is
also one of the worlds most popular and beloved themes in literature. "The Circus" is a
touching story about a man's kindness and how the realization of this played an important
part of his son's coming age. In Dan Clark's "The Circus" , it is obvious how this young
man realizes what being kind really means. Clark states that "We didn't go to the Circus
that night but we didn't go without." (1995, pg. 4) quote demonstrates that the young
man realizes that it is more important to be generous than it was to go to the circus. This
was the first step of this young man's transition into the adult life. More often than not,
the plot, characters, theme and conflicts in literature deal with the theme coming of age,
are very realistic.

Yet another story is Gary Paulsen's "Hatchet" which is a story about one boy who
must survive in the wilderness, with only a hatchet as a weapon. This is a story of
courage about how one child was forced to transform into an adult in order to endure the
circumstances surrounding him. Brian Robeson was stranded on an island, after his
plane crashed down while traveling to see his father. He had no food, now way of
communication and only a small hatchet to save his life. Through terrifying events,
"Hatchet" is the story of one man's struggle to survive. It is obvious how Brian Robeson
was forced to "come of age" or "grow up." He boarded the plan that would change his
life forever, as a child, and returned home a grown man. The circumstances Brian was
put under after the plane crashed changed his life forever. When he returned home, he
looked at things from a different perspective and was not quick to take small things for
granted .

Lastly, Hugh Maclennan's story "Explosion" is a story about a young boy named
Roddie Wain, who was late for school on the famous morning that Mont Blanc crashed
into another ship on the Halifax harbor, causing monstrous destruction. Roddie Wain
begins his journey of coming of age on this morning when he is faced with the
continuance of death, screams, and shrieks, surrounding him. Through the days events,
this child grows in to a young man through a series of shocking and terrifying events.
Near the beginning of the story, Roddie is only a child who was late for school, and
knows he is not in trouble due to the tornado that just passed because of the explosion.
He is happy that he will not be in trouble. By the end of the story, he wishes he was back
in school and in trouble rather than being faced with the horrible sight of death and
blood. An the end of the story it is also rather obvious that he is not only saying that he
wants to be back in school, he is also saying that he wants to be a child again. Something
impossible, after all his has seen and been through. The theme coming of age is found
over and over again in literature, but each time we learn something new. Humankind too
comes of age with each new story, facing the universal process of coming of age to repeat
itself throughout a lifetime.

Furthermore, Harper Lee's novel To Kill A Mockingbird is one of the best
coming of age stories ever written. It is a sensitive, touching portrayal of a young boy
who comes of age through shocking, yet realistic events. Through Harper Lee's story we
see how one boy, Jem Finch, changed from a young child who played make believe, to a
young man looking for justice, after an amazingly thrilling summer when a boy was
changed into a man.

The first summer passed and Jem Finch was ten years old and afraid of old ghost
rumours. The second summer passed and Jem was eleven; he enacted a drama from his
imagination in his front yard along with Scout and Dill. Still summertime, and they
tormented a man by sticking a note on the end of a fishing pole, trying to persuade the
man to come out. Still summertime and Jem, Scout and Dill tormented the man yet again
by invading his privacy and trespassing. It was fall, and Jem stood in his front yard as
tears of sorrow fell down his face, while Nathan Radley cut of his only communication
with Boo Radley. It was winter, and Jem and Scout sat outside, watching as a house
burned down and a ghost threw a blanket over Scout. It was winter, and Jem stood
prouder than ever, as he watched his father kill an infested, dying dog. It was spring, and
Jem raged against an old lady by destroying her roses, kicked his sister to the ground in
fury and helped her back up. It was summertime, Jem saved his father's life as well as
Tom Robinson's. It was summer, and Jem sat and watched the trial which would change
his life, turn him into a man. It was summertime still, and the justice system that Jem
had so much faith in, let him down and broke his heart. Jem stood in the courtroom as
tears strolled down his face for Tom Robinson, and what the justice system had done to
him.
It was summertime still, and a young man fought to change the justice system, and to
make things right, giving everyone hope for the future. It was fall, and a young man ran
made with rage when his sister mentioned the trial and the courthouse. It was fall, and
Jem's life was saved be the man who had once feared so much. Through these touching,
traumatic events, it is easy to see how one young care-free boy, turned into a young man
full of rage, let down by the justice system. Harper Lee's story How To Kill A
Mockingbird is a representation of reality, since, for Jem to grow up he had to face many
heart wrenching conflicts which turned him into a young man. Harper Lee's story was
indeed touching, realistic and unforgettable.

In conclusion, coming of age is an important and unique universal experience.
Coming of age is a preferred theme among many authors , all over the world. Although
it is a very popular theme, it is important not to forget the traditions and ceremonies
behind it. This theme was beautifully portrayed by Harper Lee's novel To Kill A
Mockingbird. Every child most come of age at some point in their lives, whether
through a horrible ordeal, or by the passing of time, but what is most important is that
you learn from it and carry it throughout your life. Always remember that everything that
happens during a lifetime is important and happens for a reason. The process of coming
of age is repeated throughout that lifetime, so take it and learn from it.
 

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