Suffering is an essential element of childhood experiences; without it a child could not learn and grow’ Does literature you study support this statement?
Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it’. This literal and realistic statement said by one who has known suffering and has dealt with it. Helen Keller experienced a traumatic time as a child; being deaf and blind, she knew suffering but also knew that it is possible for it to be conquered and forgot. She suffered in this way as a child and her adult life was a good one because of this suffering. The most important element in any child’s life is to learn and grow. Does experiencing anguish and misery enable a child to flourish, consequently becoming a nurtured adult?
Angela’s Ashes, a memoir of a childhood set in Limerick, Ireland, demonstrates Frank McCourt’s suffering and distress throughout his young life. The novel tells of how the McCourt family lives and grows in poverty stricken Ireland. The conditions in which they live are appalling; rats infest and hygiene is not a common thing. This causes plenty of disease and as a result, kills most of Frank McCourts family.
A section in the novel which expresses their family’s suffering is when Franks sister, Margaret, his parents’ joy is taken ill. But when Margaret cries, there is a high lonely feeling in the air and Dad is out of bed in a second, holding her to him.’ Frank goes on to say When he passes the window where the streetlight shines in, you can see the tears on his cheeks and that’s strange because he never cries for anyone unless he has the drink taken from him’. This is illustrating a very emotional scene but as the child is watching, due to his age and immaturity, he fails to realise his father is grieving through Margaret’s pain. This is a original way to show a child’s suffering through a novel as the reader is seeing the misery through the child’s eyes, but the pain being felt is by his father.
An interesting aspect of the writing in Angela’s Ashes is how McCourt composes the text, from McCourts interpretation of the situation at the young age he was at the time. The spelling and grammar also indicates that the child is writing, not the adult, It’s a long way to the Dock Road but we don’t mind because our bellies are filled with sausages and bread and it’s not raining’.
This biography can partly support the original statement, as McCourt doesn’t fully understand the experiences he is going through when he is at a young age, but he will reflect on them as shaping experiences as he ages. He has seen how adults react to different things and when he is older, he will value what he saw when young because he will know and understand why his elders did what they did.
Suffering is a recurring theme in Angela’s Ashes. Mam’s teeth are so bad she has to go to Barringtons Hospital to have them all pulled out’ and The lane needs more lavatories’ are quotes tracing the developing disease and squalid conditions. McCourt has experienced this poor quality of life and as an adult will perhaps to accept the essentials without vain as he knows and understands what poverty and suffering really is.
This is an example of a suffering childhood in Ireland at the early part of this century. The meaning of distress to another child in a separate place could mean the same. Pleasure Mouse, a little girl is growing up in 13th century China.
A family in China is slowly congregating together to witness the binding of their youngest girl’s feet. Pleasure Mouse spends the time in this short story by Emily Prager visiting her many friends desperately trying to discover the big secret behind the foot binding. The Visit From the Footbinder is a empathetic short story written about Pleasure Mouse, the little girl of five, who is unaware of the great suffering she is about to undertake when getting her feet bound.
There is a definite contrast between the older ladies and young Pleasure Mouse as the language used to describe the movements between the two are very different. Pleasure Mouse often runs, scampered, dashed and leaped up and down. She is full of action and energy whereas the older women scurried, toddled and shuffled. Their movements are restricted and slower than that of Pleasure Mouse. The reader knows that the foot binding that has affected the older women and the writer using such vitality to describe Pleasure Mouse. That makes the contrast between before she gets her feet bound and after very high, causing the reader to have sympathy for perky’ Pleasure Mouse.
She asks her thirteen year old sister, Tiger Mouse, Will it hurt? What will they look like afterwards? Please tell me.’ Moreover, her sister has an element of spite in her, as she doesn’t reply. She knows what Pleasure Mouse is going to suffer but she feels angry that no one permitted her to know what she was going to feel when it was her turn. Why should I tell you what no one told me?’
This text allows there to be conflict between the elders, which means the original statement can be partly supported. Pleasure Mouse’s close friend Honey Tongue is very assuring and tells Pleasure Mouse that the foot binding will be the best thing to happen to her. The pain goes away and then you have a weapon that you never dreamed of.’ Honey Tongue is promising Pleasure Mouse that the suffering will be worth the pain and when she is an adult, she will be thankful she has tiny feet. The suffering she must endure as a child will provide experience for her and she can grow into a beautiful young woman. In China at this time a young ladies priority, in a high social class like this, was to find a noble man to wed. With the pain Pleasure Mouse has endured, she has now achieved full potential for fulfilling her adult life.
Pleasure Mouse suffered actual physical pain in one section of her life from which her mental anguish about the experience will not be recovered. She will never feel the same again as she did when young; the foot binding has ruined her life. Never again from now on can she run, skip, and leap around. Frank McCourt, on the other hand, was living in poverty and suffering for most of his life, it is not been a painful experience for one short part. Like Pleasure Mouse, Jane Eyre had an experience in her early years, which would effect the way she lived her future life.
Jane Eyre, written by Charlotte Bronte, traces the development in Jane’s life as she flourishes from a bullied frail child into a bright elegant young lady. One specific point in her life she recalls as an unjust punishment’ causing her great mental stress and anguish. The incident she experiences in the red room, caused by her imagination, makes her feel as if she is being tortured.
Jane is locked away in her uncle’s bedroom (used before he passed on) as punishment for her behaviour against Master John, despite the fact that it was John who inflicted pain upon Jane not the opposite. Her imagination creates the ghost of Mr Reed, her dead uncle which consequences in her throwing a fit. This unjust abuse from Master John causes mental agony and affects Jane in the way she lives her life in the future.
Her childhood is full of times of woe. Jane’s aunt and her family make her feel unwanted and instead of accepting her as family, she is discarded as an outsider. This suffering through her childhood makes Jane a stronger person in that she has known hard relationships and wont be easily pushed around. The suffering she experienced as a child has educated her about the qualities and personalities of different people and how they treat others. Jane has known this through the snobbery of her aunt and family and will learn not to trust these types of people.
Jane Eyre is an example of the statement, Suffering is an essential element of childhood experiences; without it a child could not learn and grow’, as she grows to become a prominent young lady who finds love in the end. She works as a governess employed by a young man, Mr Rochester. Incidentally they fall in love and Jane now realises that she can be happy. Mr Rochester, if ever I did a good deed in my life – if ever I thought a good thought – if ever I prayed a sincere and blameless prayer – if ever I wished a righteous wish – I am rewarded now. To be your wife is, to be as happy as I can be on earth’
What occurred as a child changed the way that Jane lived the rest of her life. This is what would have happened to the boys in Lord of the Flies as we can see in Ralph’s character many indications of this effect of suffering developing through the novel.
In his first novel, William Golding uses a group of boys stranded on a tropical island to illustrate the malicious nature of mankind. Lord of the Flies deals with changes that the boys undergo as they gradually adapt to the isolated freedom from society. The real struggle to remain civilised is a strain on these boys’ childhood. They have to learn responsibilities and they find the need to mature in order of survival.
The mental and physical suffering these boys experience on the island is torture; in the end, Jack is hunting Ralph for his blood, putting him in a state of anguish. Ralph screamed, a scream of fright and anger and desperation’.
Piggy is the only boy who can see sense on the island and is the only boy who hasn’t any notice taken of him. His suffering is different from the physical pain of Ralph’s as he knows where the evil is on the island but no one listens. Piggy’s mental state is in confusion, as he cannot communicate well with the other boys.
The Lord of the Flies is an excellent example of childhood suffering, as it contains the misery of being bullied Who cares what you believe – Fatty!’ the ordeal and grief of murder (of animals and humans) The spear moved forward inch by inch, and the terrified squealing became a high pitched scream’, and the tribulation of being situated in an unusual environment. ‘We’re all drifting and things are going rotten. At home there was always a grown-up’.
The reader cannot know for sure if the experience on the island affected the way they grew up, but such intense encounters with murder and rivalry like these, should indeed scar the child for life. Each boy present on this island has lost his innocence just by witnessing the events; this suffering has taught the boys about mankind. In the closing scene of the novel, the naval officer has found the island and the boys in ruins. Ralph emotions began to pour out and the way Golding has written this last section, it seems that he has portrayed Ralph to be scarred for life. The tears began to flow and the sobs shook him’. Describing the tears that shake Ralph shows that the emotion of crying is physically effecting him. Great, shuddering spasms of grief that seemed to wrench his whole body.’ This doesn’t appear to be like normal crying. Ralph is so extremely hurt, that his body cant express all his pain and suffering in the simple function of crying. His whole body takes part.
Lord of the Flies is an extreme example to support the question asked in this essay. There is an amount of suffering present in the novel but an excessive amount will result in damaging the child’s mental health instead of teaching them and allowing them to grow.
Using the boys in Lord of the Flies, when they murder Simon, it is shocking to realise what children can do to each other. In addition, we have examples of this as Master John is compelled to throw the book at Jane and how the women can give so much pain to Pleasure Mouse by binding her feet. Children often cause suffering upon one another, as we can see in Vernon Scannel’s poem Hide and Seek.
The poem tells of young children enjoying an innocent game of hide and seek. As the poem is written in the first person, the writer becomes the little boy who has found a prime spot in which to hide. He thinks he has his friends fooled but come the end of the poem, both the reader and the boy realise that a manoeuvre has been played to mislead him.
The boy is hiding in a garden shed and is talking to himself in a state of excitement. The poem progresses and the atmosphere changes as the boy becomes uncomfortable in his surroundings. He is talking to himself still but now unlike before, he is doing so to comfort himself, as he is aware of his loneliness. Your legs are stiff, the cold bites through your coat’. This language is cold and hostile and the boy can sense that he is feeling uneasy and there is something wrong.
He becomes disheartened as his friends’ have played a trick on him and he now feels uncomfortable, It seems a long time since they went away’.
This poem in another extreme to support the statement Suffering is an essential element of childhood experiences; without it a child could not learn and grow’. As opposed to Lord of the Flies, being very extreme in violent suffering, Hide and Seek is the opposite in that it is mild and an example of childish torment. It won’t affect their mental state, as it is not an intense enough experience, but the boy may never see games in the same light again. This may result in him not trusting people or his friends so readily. The quite harmless pain he has experienced may still have an effect when he is an adult.
I believe suffering is an essential part of childhood, as there is a lot to be learned from the pain of past experiences. The more we learn about mankind, the better our quality of life and happiness can become. Experience is essential for adult life; painful, suffering experience is better remembered. We control our own intentions and actions; we can make our life improve if we evaluate our past encounters. As Aristotle said, Happiness depends on ourselves’.