The Adolescent Struggle for Independence
January 25, 2013
Children are helpless and dependent on their caregivers from the moment they are born. Adolescence is a very confusing point in a young person’s life as they are caught between being a child and a yearning for adulthood. An adolescent may strive for independence, or be forced to mature quickly, but will remain dependent on both their family and society in some way. The effect of this dependency, however, may not always be positive. The main character from Mark Haddon’s novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Christopher John Francis Boone was born with higher functioning autism. This left him vulnerable to the world, in the sense that he would always need to be cared for by others. Astrid Magnussen, from Janet Fitch`s work White Oleander, is forced into foster care when her neglectful mother is taken to jail for murder. She bounces from one foster home to another, always needing but never finding. An adolescent may be aware of their dependency on others or not, however between Christopher’s disability and Astrid losing her only parental figure, that reliance is strengthened. The two grew up precociously though both react to it differently. Some cannot wait to become adults, while others wish nothing more than for time to slow down. Wanting to grow up and being forced to out of necessity have many different effects on a young mind. Christopher wants nothing more than to receive his A level math and be like any other boy his age. He has never seen himself any more challenged than other children, often thinking of himself as superior to them. Unlike the others, Christopher feels he thrives in solitude and loves to be on his own. “When I was asleep I had one of my favorite dreams... and in that dream nearly everyone on the earth is dead” (Haddon 198-199). Christopher has no realistic knowledge of how to fend or care for himself, but as far as he knows, he is all he needs. In this dream Christopher’s antisocial personality is proven. This acts to strengthen understanding and reason behind Christopher’s belief that he is fully capable of caring for himself. Christopher is unable able to grasp the degree to which his disability makes him dependent on his parents and teachers, because he is incapable of recognizing the difference between himself and other fully functioning boys. In contrast, Astrid has the unfortunate knowledge of knowing just how fully she depends on others. Before foster care she had lived solely for her mother, often providing more of a parent role than that of a daughter. Once Astrid’s mother is locked away in jail when she is twelve, she becomes dependent on the system, until she turns eighteen. Astrid has always been content to let her mother mould her into any shape she wanted. Her mother Ingrid had made all the decisions, but now that she is gone, Astrid latches herself onto other caregivers in an attempt to compensate. `` I was blank, anyone could fill me in. I waited to see who I would be, what they would create on my delicious vacancy” (Fitch 150). Astrid attaches herself to beautiful women, people who at first unconsciously remind her of Ingrid. Her single mother had always told her that nothing in the world is more important than beauty. Consequently, this advice sends Astrid searching for women who are often negative influences on her young mind. Astrid feels she depends on others, not only to care for her as a foster child, but to continue to shape her into a person her mother would be proud of. Behind the walls Astrid erects from those she attaches herself to is a child who is always aware of how vulnerable she is. It follows that teens and preteens struggle with a need for freedom and the weight of not yet being seen as worthy of it. Whether a young individual is aware of this weight and dependence or not it is always present in different forms. These two very different situations...
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