Literary Criticism of Childhood's End: Let the Right One In and Other Deaths of Innocence
In the essay developed by John Calhoun, he describes a variety of movies that portray the seemingly devilish side of children. He lists several movies and novels including the novel we are currently reading, Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist. Calhoun goes on to explain the lost of innocence that children loose in these movie and novels but also in real life, he referenced the Columbine shootings. This essay was very interesting to read and since I have not had the opportunity to see some of these films it gives me a little more insight and also intrigues me to view them because I would like to form my own opinion. In this essay I have picked a few passages that I have done a close reading on and I would like to help the readers gain a better perspective on what the author is trying to convey.
“But in the world of Let the Right One In, and of the little-monster subgenre in general, the character can be seen as much more than this: she is a repository of adult fears about children, who are so like us yet in crucial ways so different...can elicit great anxiety and discomfort, especially when sexual stirrings begin to take form. Insatiability for blood is almost too perfect a metaphor for the amorphous tyrants children can be.”(Calhoun 27) This is a piece from an interesting passage, at first glance it seems to me that the author see the idea of children being monsters because as an adult this is a huge fear. The fear isn't that we are going to get eaten a live but the fact that children grown up and start to discover themselves and one another, and the fact that we may no longer have the control over them that we once had. Let's go further and delve into the this quote. The first word I came across that I wanted to gain a clear definition of was repository which is a receptacle or place where things are deposited, stored, or offered for sale. In other words adults use the idea of a vampire to contain all the evil that can come from children; adults stash those feelings away and try to steer kids away from that sort of danger. I liked the use of this word because Calhoun could have used a more common word to make the understanding easier but I think if he didn't it wouldn't have flowed as nicely. Repository is such a mysterious word and using it only adds to the unknown potential affects on children. The next sentence he states that the children are so much like us in crucial yet different ways; this line is hard to grasp because children are just smaller versions of adults and they don't necessarily have the experience or wisdom that adults have, is this the difference he speaks of? What is the crucial similarity? Lastly, Calhoun writes amorphous tyrants, well amorphous is defined as of no particular kind or character; indeterminate; having no pattern or structure; unorganized. Tyrant is a sovereign or other ruler who uses power oppressively or unjustly. In other words a child is a person is has complete and utter control over adults without having an organized purpose for this power; no true idea or meaning as to why. This word usage is amazing because again Calhoun could have easily written something like children trying to control over adults without real reason, yet his language is so powerful further adding to the mystery of childhood as well as how a child may interact with adults.
“...lives with false accusations of sexual licentiousness in The Children's Hour, for example, or amoral murderous Rhoda Penmark in The Bad Seed...the sharp contrast between the children's nefarious behavior and the normal presumption of childhood innocence...”(Calhoun 27). Licentiousness means unrestrained by law or general morality; lawless; immoral. In fact children aren't quite bound by the exact moral laws that adults, for the most part parents keep children shielded from these types of conversations. With this being the case children may partake in acts with one another that isn't appropriate and yet adults brush this off as kids being kids; doesn't this go back to the idea of amorphous tyrants? The next line that I want to give a better understanding of is the idea of a child's nefarious behavior versus the normal presumption of a child's behavior. Lets start with definition of nefarious which is an extremely wicked or villainous. Calhoun seems to be expressing the sheer wickedness that children actually possess rather then the sweet adoring children we perceive them to be.
The last passage I am going critique is “Freud introduced the notion of polymorphous perversity, or unfocused sexual drives, in children and argued that, rather than a vessel of pure innocence, the childhood psyche held the key to the emotional and sexual neuroses of the adult.”(Calhoun 28) This quote signifies that children are tiny adults, that they have the same desire and possibly urges that adults have and yet unable to comprehend these feelings. This idea makes since because we do not develop these feelings once we turn a certain age these are always present and how we handle them is an entirely different idea. I think the way in which the children are able to control these feelings is all dependent on their upbringing; if a child's parent is present and active within their life then the child isn't a monster or damaged. Is it possible that even if a child's parent isn't as present due to other obligations; couldn't a child still have those deep seeded values and moral to protect their virtue? The word polymorphous is a word that I had difficulty wrapping my head around. The actual meaning is having, assuming, or passing through many or various forms, stages, or the like. And perversity is turning away from or rejecting what is right, good, or proper; wicked or corrupt. This means that a child goes through several different levels of lewd and lascivious behavior, none the less once a child enters the first level Calhoun seems to believe that they are now monsters. Why do film makers as well as writers portray children in such a dark light? Why are adults so afraid of children? Is it because children don't have feel the need to censor themselves?
In conclusion, this piece by Calhoun was very eye opening. The way in which the author critiques these Hollywood productions seems to suggest that children are spawns of the devil, and they can only be saved from his grasp is if the child come from a Christian home where both parents are ever present and living in suburbia. I find this piece interesting yet dark if you actually read it and find the deeper meaning of what the author writes. I find his writing intoxicating because the language is so rich and yet the piece I think wouldn't be as effective if it wasn't written in this way.