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Rules of Survival Essay

There are many ways that make humans adapt to changes in their lives. An example of this is in Nancy Werlin’s novel, Rules of Survival, when Matt, Emmy, Callie all have to learn to adapt to how their mom, Nikki, is a physically and mentally abusive mother to all of her children. Matt is the one who gets most of the abuse since he is the oldest of the children. He learns to live by what Charles Darwin had once said, “It’s not the strongest of the species who survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It’s the one that is most adaptable to change.”

On one occasion when Nikki was having a drunken rage throughout their house Matt was able to sneak out his younger sisters to go to the corner store to get some ice pops since it was a hot summer night. As they go to pay for their ice pops they encounter a father with his young son and the father is mad at his son and is about to hit him when all of a sudden a young man, a little older than Matt, steps in front of the man and says to him instead of his son. The young man’s exact words to the son were that, “no one had the right to hurt him, no one, not even his father” (Werlin). After the man stopped and thought he calmed down and didn’t hit either Murdoch, who was the young man as Matt later found out, or his son. After the encounter Matt spent many days and nights trying to find the man that was called Murdoch.

It wasn’t until Matt’s sister Emmy gave him a note with Murdoch’s address and phone number on it that Matt was able to even think about finding Murdoch and being able to talk to him. But as fate would have it just as Emmy gave Matt the paper with the information their mother Nikki walks in and takes the paper from Matt. After Nikki learns that Murdoch is a good looking man she proceeds to date Murdoch. This ends up working in the kids favor since he helps them whenever Nikki becomes out of control.

After a while of dating Nikki, Murdoch finally starts to see how she really treats her children and how badly they need help in order to survive. As Murdoch starts to gain more and more access into the Walsh family he learns just how bad the situation is for the children. Matt was the one who saw how Murdoch was helping him and his little sisters and he was forever grateful to what he did so that he and his sisters were protected from Nikki’s wrath. Matt put this best in a part from his letter to Emmy, “I wonder if you really need to know exactly what happened to us—me, you, Callie—at the hands of our unpredictable, vicious mother.

How we lived back then, when I was fifteen and you only seven, all of full of fear. All then full of hope when we met Murdoch, the man who seemed to be showing us an easier future. What Murdoch did and what he couldn’t do. What you and I did. Part of me hopes that you’ll go along happily your whole life and never want to know the details.” (Werlin). Matt had always tried to shade his sisters from what their mom was capable of doing, and when Murdoch came along his job was made a little easier which is why his sisters may not have seen some of the things that Nikki did.

In the end Matt was able to do what he had hoped to do and that was to protect his sisters from Nikki’s wrath. But alongside this she is now gone and they no longer have to fear for their lives. Matt is living with his aunt and the girls are with his father and Murdoch. They learned to live with Nikki no matter the situation she put them in. This just goes to prove Charles Darwin’s saying “It’s not the strongest of the species who survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It’s the one that is most adaptable to change.”

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