Coming of Age in American Literature

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Mark Grim

Ms. Pratt

English 11 CP

11 May 2011

Coming of Age in America
What is coming of age? Everyone has different answers to that question. In America it isn’t any different. To some it’s about more tangible things. For others it comes suddenly, with traumatic experiences and struggle. Sometimes, it’s about self discovery, figuring life out, and becoming aware of the world around them.

By definition, in America you’re legally an adult when you turn 18. Although some will say it’s later or earlier because you can get your permit at 16, but you need to wait until you’re 21 to drink. Others will say that it’s about superficial things like losing your virginity, getting married, having kids, smoking, and cursing. Although intangible, I believe coming of age is defined by character.

Sometimes some us will mature at an early age through trying circumstances, suck as poverty and loss of life among friends and family. Looking death in the eye will make some an adult in the course of a single moment, making one realize how valuable life is, how often it’s taken, and one finds that bravery isn’t being fearless, but that it’s about standing up to your fears. This is how many Americans have lost their innocence. In the World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, and in the Middle East, Americans have proven their selves on the field of battle, learning to overcome their fears while being disillusioned by them.

For the typical American, we usually take a while longer to mature since we have it much better off than most people. As children, we’re quite sheltered. It usually isn’t until we graduate high school or get out of college that we mature by default, because the world begins to force us into independence, whether we like it or not. In high school there aren’t any real consequences to our actions, but when we get an actual job our actions make the difference between having food on the table and starving, living on the streets and having a roof over your head. We...
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