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Coming of Age in American Literature

Paper type: Essay
Pages: 4 (820 words)
Categories: Age, America, Literature
Downloads: 21
Views: 1

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 begin to realize how hard life can be. We begin to toil and struggle. Even literature reflects this. We begin to question who our friends are, we look back on the past with nostalgia, and to the future with premonition like in Stephen King’s Stand by Me. In the beginning, we follow four boys, short of entering high school, that set out to find a corpse out of curiosity.

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They hide behind false bravado, smoking and cursing as much as they can, but they end up being humbled and disillusioned along the way. As they travel through railroads and forests, they begin to open up to each other and go through life changing realizations. The leader of the group, Chris, confesses his feelings about his future. He believes that it’s set in stone for him to follow his family’s footsteps, that he’ll end up like his alcoholic dad and troublesome brother. But in the end he decides to take college preparatory classes in high school instead of settling for manual labor.

And even though he tears up in front of his friend, Gordy, during his confession, when he and his friends find the corpse, they encounter a gang that Chris bravely stands up to at knife point. Gordy himself, goes through a lot as well. He begins to sort of mature before the rest of his friends do, having already suffered the death of his older brother, and, afterwards, having to deal with a family that wished he took his brother’s place. What finally brings him to full maturation is when he finally finds the corpse.

He looks at his face, is reminded of his brother, and of how dear he was to him. Even though they initially set out to find the corpse so they could into the news and be seen as heroes, Gordy is the one who decides they’ll report the whereabouts of the body through an anonymous call. And despite what they all went through together, they end up growing apart, which is something we all can relate to. Constantly we’ll make friends, only for them to become just another face, that we’d be lucky just to get a hello from.

In Hemingway’s story, Hills Like White Elephants, we are reminded of how the weight of our decisions begin to grow and grow as we age. In the story, a couple is contemplating what to do about their future child. While the woman wants to become a mother, the man wants an abortion, and both are aware of the burden that the child would be. Even though we don’t find out whether or not they have the child, their decision is one they will have to live with for the rest of their life. And despite that this is all very vaguely conveyed in the story, it sort of reflects how the answers in life are never to find.

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Coming of Age in American Literature. (2020, Jun 01). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/coming-age-american-literature-new-essay

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