Children's Literature: Views of Childhood in Media and Text

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True View of Childhood

When one reminisces on their childhood, they are often flooded with memories of play, freedom, carelessness and adventure. These characteristics are what immediately come to mind when discussing the stage of childhood, and many attribute romantic images to the simplicity of this early stage of life. However, there are also several conflicting views that contrast these typical images, seen in situations where children are given roles forcing them to act like an adult. These conflicting views are often explored in young adult literature, such as Meme McDonald and Boori Monty Pryor’s The Binna Binna Man, as well as films such as Paul Goldman’s Australian Rules. Each of these works tell the story of a young adult growing up in a family where they feel they need to be the “men of the house” and put any childish behavior behind. The narrator in The Binna Binna Man is an aboriginal teenager who is growing up with a strong emphasis on family. He spends time with his entire extended family as they travel through Binna Binna Country. His father is not present in the story, so he becomes the paternal figure, despite his young age. He is constantly trying to prove himself as an adult, but often forgets that he still must remain dependant on his elders. The character Blacky in Australian Rules finds himself in several conflicts that force him to grow up. He is subject to intense racism by his community, which is an issue as his best friend and the woman of his dreams are both aboriginal. He also must live with an abusive father, which forces Blacky to act as a protector for his younger siblings. Blacky transforms throughout the film and eventually stands up to his father, suggesting that he must grow up and leave his childhood behind. These two pieces are examples of how contradictory ideologies of childhood are reflected, causing the readers and viewers to adjust their beliefs of what it really means to be a child. The Binna Binna Man is a novel of self-discovery, described through the life of a young adult boy, coming to age while on a trip with his extended family. The narrator remains unnamed throughout the story, which originally prevents the reader from forming an attachment to the character. However, the reader is aware of the narrator’s thoughts and opinions, making it challenging to not create a bond. The narrator begins the novel by giving the reader the impression that he has been put in charge. The narrator explains why his father is not present for the trip when he says, “My dad’ll bring us back a whole mob of ripe mangoes. He’s up the Tableland fruit picking. That’s why I get to go on this trip. I’m the oldest boy. While Dad’s away I’m Mum’s main man” (McDonald and Pryor, 16). This leads the reader to believe that the father is away often enough that the narrator knows his place in his family. He is the oldest son, so he is in charge whenever Dad is away. He feels obligated to be responsible and act like an adult in order to help his mother and the rest of his large extended family. He and his cousin Shandell bicker like children, yet he is convinced of his authority when his father is absent. The idea that children become the adults when adults are not around is a contrasting view of childhood because children are meant to be children. Many believe they should not have to switch roles when an adult is not around, but many feel obligated because they want the responsibilities and privileges that adults receive. The narrator has an inner voice, similar to a conscience, that tells him right from wrong. He listens to if for the majority of the novel, but he eventually decides that this inner voice is holding him back. He starts ignoring it and attempts to break away from any childish opinions and begins engaging in adult activities such as consuming alcohol. The narrator describes his decision when he says, “That Gunji voice. But that voice, it’s making me different. It’s the one that’s got me...
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