Coming of Age is Overcoming a Challenge?

October 18, 2010 § Leave a comment

Continuously, authors and screen writers depict coming of age as overcoming some sort of large life challenge, maturing and becoming stronger. This loss of innocence coupled with gaining responsibility forces characters to grew up suddenly.

In Call of the Wild by Jack London, Buck gets unwillingly taken from his family, beaten into submission and forced to become a sled dog in alaska. He goes from leading a life of ease in Santa Clara to a rough and uncivilized life up north. Although his situation went from good to terrible, Buck is able to overcome this loss of his original life and excel at his new life. By making the best of his uncontrollable situation, Buck not only matures but also gains power and responsibility as the head sled dog.

Similarly, In the Lion King, Simba accidentally gets his father killed by a stampede of wildebeasts. At first, he is ashamed and depressed at this loss so he retreats from his previously life and responsibility; however, when his evil uncle Scar abuses his power to the point of threatening the existence of the pride, Simba returns to take back what he left behind. He has to overcome the challenge of accepting his fathers loss and defeating his uncle. In doing this, Simba is regaining his title as king.

Lastly, In Bambi, Bambi loses his mother at a young age when he is still dependent on her. This forces him to grow up quickly in order to fend for himself and his mate. Rather than dwelling, Bambi accepts his loss and his sudden increase in responsibility.

These three coming of age tale all revolve around an essential challenge or hardship in each characters life. As someone who has led a pretty eventless life, it makes me wonder if in fact my great coming of age will ever happen? Or, did it happen slowly with out me realizing? These texts make me feel like you have to have a significant loss in order for you to ever truly come of age. Is it possible to come of age without any major struggles through your life?


Do We Get More Civilized as We Age?

October 15, 2010 § Leave a comment

It is often said that children are uncivilized. They run about, not sharing, not caring and doing what ever they want to. They are called wild. But is it wild in the sense that they are uncivilized. I would argue yes.

What characterizes a civilized person? Compassion? Empathy? Although children can have strong emotions, their emotions are primarily self centered. They havent experienced enough to understand and therefore empathize with what others are going through. Children are innocent. The lack of events in their lives have not taught them compassion or how to feel bad for others. As a child i only thought of myself, never about the impact i had one others. Putting myself in someone else’s situation was impossible to do.

As we grow up we are thought to mature and become civilized. We go from eating with our hands to using silverware. From feeling little for others to always thinking about peoples problems. However, at the same time when we become what is defined as a civilized adult at the age of 18, we can join the army and partake in the most primal act of killing another human.

In Call of the Wild, Buck goes from his civil life in Santa Clara to a primal life in Alaska. In some aspects, Buck becomes more civilized as he ages. He discovers true love for Thorton, an emotion that only humans are thought to possess. However, after Thortons death, Buck relinquishes his attachment to civilized society and discovers his primal self, reconnecting with with his ancestors. This suggests that although we age and try to cover up our primality by fitting into civilized society ultimately as we age we still connect to primality. So then what exactly defines coming of age?

Animals in the Wild

October 11, 2010 § 5 Comments

Although Call of the Wild isn’t a Disney Film, there are many similarities with Disney films such as the Lion King and Bambi. To begin, all of these stories involve an animal and follow this animal throughout their lives. They all begin when the animal is just a baby and end at the end of the animal’s journey to adulthood. They also are all constantly in nature. In both of the Disney movies, there are no people shown at all, but in all three they are predominantly in the wild. Even though there are humans in Call of the Wild, there aren’t in a civilized developed environment and instead are in the animal’s habit.


Even though I don’t believe that there is one moment in which an individual “comes of age”, in all three of these stories there is a distinct turning point. In Bambi, when he fends off another male deer to save the woman he loves, he finally matures and becomes the man that he needed to be. In Lion King, Simba sees his father in the sky and is told to return to Pride Rock, which is when he realizes his fate and responsibility to save his people. In Call of the Wild, Buck sees his best friend dead and it triggered him to become savage and a killer, which he continues for the rest of the book. Each of these moments change the course of their respective stories and change the main characters.


In all of these stories, the main characters must attack another animal to survive and show their worth. In Bambi he fights the other deer, in Lion King Simba must fight Scar to save his people and in Call of the Wild, Buck must fight off the attacking wolves to show that he can fight with them. Along with the moments mentioned earlier, these are all pivotal turning points in the story and help them all survive.


Circle of Life

October 11, 2010 § 5 Comments

Bambi, The Lion King and Call of the Wild share many similarities. In each story there is a strong natural order and a social hierarchy in which one species dominates over another. Each protagonist also has a destiny to fulfill and inner strength that must be recognized. In Bambi, the title character had to mature in order to fill his father’s shoes as Great Prince of the forrest, Simba had to take charge and bring order back to his kingdom, and Buck must recognize the beast within. Another similarities between the three stories was the fact that all of the title characters underwent a transformation and came of age. For me the most striking similarity was a theme of respecting nature and its creatures.

Both of my parents are strict vegetarians. Despite my mother’s own refusal to eat meat she always left the decision up to me. I have never had meat in my life, not one bite (except that one time with my nanny at the grocery store but I spit it out) but my mom actually encouraged it. I of course couldn’t bear the thought of eating a dead animal and I think that these three stories actually led me to remain a vegetarian.

In Bambi, cute, lovable animals are destroyed for sport. As a little girl Bambi made me feverntly opposed to hunting and taught me to respect the natural world.

The Lion King also has some serious animal rights themes. The Lion King reinforced the respect for nature that Bambi introduced me to. It reminded me that just because you are “superior” to something does not mean that you should disrespect it just because you can. All links of the food chain are to be respected as they are all crucial aspects of the circle of life. It’s interesting that Simba ends up living off of bugs. All animals in The Lion King are personified but since the bugs weren’t it’s almost like Simba was living a off of a vegetarian diet.

In Call of the Wild, Buck is tormented by man. The first time I read Call of the Wild I became obsessed with dogs. I would wear those really ugly dog shirts with no intention of being ironic  and volunteered at animal shelters with my friend. I would never eat a dog and knew that I could never eat a pig either.

Bambi, Call of the Wild, and The Lion King are kind of like PETA’s wet dream.  Man is a source of corruption and a force of evil that exploits and abuses the natural world. Each story personified animals in such a way that they were more than cute they were human. These stories led me to respect nature and teach all children to do the same. 

It’s not as easy as you think

October 10, 2010 § 5 Comments

Adversity is common to all of people’s lives on earth. It sometimes allows us to grow or destroys us in our path to cross it. However, many situations that present us with difficulty do not have such simple solutions that would simply allow us to defeat it by blindly trying to solve it and just move on. Sometimes, the best way to conquer a problem does not let us have a clear victory as a result.


In ­Call of the Wild, Buck struggles for the attainment of power over others. When he is first taken from his home and delivered to his new environment, with nothing but strangers around him, he understandably feels much rage.


He continues propelling himself towards unusual foes even as they swing a club directly at him each time. Eventually, but only once he has completely lost all energy in his body, he realizes that fighting back against someone that has that much power over him cannot do him any good, and rather hurts him instead.


Buck learned what was the specific issue that was resulting in this problem between him and who he was reluctant to accept as his master, using this knowledge to avoid the cause of the problem all the while retaining his pride as a respected hound.


The most important part of overcoming adversity is to determine the root cause of the conflict and to understand what you can do to avoid it. For Buck, it simply required him to see that trying to take power over a human would only hurt him, so he would listen to his masters the first time around. As long as he obeyed their law, he could maintain the power that he desired in his pack.


Much too often in life do we try to push through a problem with trial and error in trying to find an answer. One cannot learn from life’s difficulties, as many say, unless one understands what is making it difficult, and only from there can we grow rather than fall.


The Sounding of the Call

October 10, 2010 § 3 Comments

I remember the first time I read “Call of the Wild”. I was about 10 years old and it was part of a very extensive Jack London unit at my elementary school. Like Buck I spent my childhood in the lap of luxury. Just as “there were no other dogs” on the Miller property, I was an only child which likely contributed to my carefree upbringing (London 3).  It was interesting for me to reread the book and see how my own adolescence changed my interpretation of London’s classic coming of age story.

As Buck grows and evolves as a character he learns who he really is and gets in touch with his canine nature. I really connected to Buck and drew upon my own experiences growing up when reading “Call of the Wild”. I feel that Buck’s journey shows that coming of age has less to do with age and more to do with finding your true colors.

We all begin our lives somewhat  like domesticated dogs.  We are shaped and trained to be what our “masters” want us to be but through time and the challenges that accompany it we begin to shape our own opinions and get in touch with our own “dominant primordial beasts”. My mother always says that challenges help to shape us into who we are. This could not be more true for Buck. Coming into oneself is a gradual and often private process. Only through attempting to overcome obstacles does Buck truly get in touch with his wild side. Under the rough conditions of his new life, Buck continues to figure out who he really is. “The dominant primordial beast was strong in Buck, and under the fierce conditions of the trail life ir grew and grew. Yet it was a secret growth”(London 15).

In addition to hardships Buck also faces new responsibilities. During his transformation Buck must bring in money for John. Having responsibilities is a trying but necessary  part of learning to be an adult.

When I read “Call of the Wild” all those years ago I viewed coming of age as a mere period of time in one’s life. I feel that coming of age is a process and it has many aspects to it but a crucial part of coming of age is recognizing who you are deep down. Some of us are lucky enough to figure this out in our teens but for most coming of age (at least in this sense) does not occur until much later.

A Familiar Story

October 10, 2010 § 2 Comments

For some reason, I just have the strangest feeling that I have read a story similar to this where a “civilized” person is put into a wild situation and progressively reverts into a wild state.  However I can’t seem to put my finger on exactly what I thinking about.  It may be that there isn’t one specific one but because this theme of adapting to fit the situation that you are in is a common one I have a sense of familiarity with it.  Here are some examples that I can think of:

Tom Hank’s The Pacific:  In The Pacific miniseries, one of the main characters, Sledge I believe, goes through a rather large transformation during his time at war.  He starts as a polite kid from Alabama who wants to serve his country, but is pretty sensitive to some of the happenings and behaviors of the men at war in the Pacific.  For example, he sees one of his fellow marines digging the golden tooth out of a dead Japanese soldier and is pretty shocked at the behavior.  However, once he experiences the hardships of war, he becomes pretty hardened himself and at the end is pushed so far that he himself is willing to dig for gold (although he is stopped by the original marine trying to help save some of his sanity).  The horrible experiences that Sledge goes through makes the marine change and harden up so that he can handle and try to brush off what he witnesses.  At the beginning of his war time, he is told to forget about everything and to let it all go, but at the end, it is he that is telling a young marine that he “can’t dwell on any of it.”

Trading Places:  In this movie, starring Eddie Murphy, a group of wealthy investors (I believe) run a social experiment to see how a situation shapes a man.  They decide to do everything that they can to make one of their workers “trade places” with homeless Eddie Murphy on the street.  Through a lot of manipulation eventually the two do switch places and the transformation is shocking.  Suddenly the wealthy man is reduced to nothing and must solemnly beg on the street, while Murphy is enjoying his new found success and proves to be a good investor.   It is amazing to see how the situation, like it did for Buck, affected how the two men act.

Although less of a formal literary example, but to show that this theme occurs everywhere there is a Spongebob episode where Patrick and Spongebob are pushed into their own wildness.  They are left stranded in the middle of nowhere with nothing to eat and it isn’t long before they are both willing to eat the other to survive.  These are two creatures who have been best friends forever, and because of their situation, they are pushed to savagery.  “Eat or be Eaten as they say.

This is a great theme because it is interesting.  People like to see how people react to different situations and how they are affected.  I know that I enjoyed watching Buck assert himself to the top of the pack and then into the top of the wolf pack.  You can see this theme almost everywhere, just in different forms.

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