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The Age Of Innocence English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1230 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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When one thinks about a child losing their innocence, they most often think about the first time a child finds out that Santa Claus is fictional. The world, in their eyes, is not perfect anymore. Innocence is not intentional in a child; it is something they are born with. It is the desire to see the best in everyone, to think everyone is a perfect being. A child portrays innocence with their sense of wonder, trust, obedience and the idea of forgiveness that adults no longer possess. There are many movies, either reality or fairytales, as well as books and stories that expose the innocence children experience. Three stories that portray this innocence to the reader are "Araby" by James Joyce, "The Lesson" by Toni Cade Bambara, and "Girl" by Jamaica Kincaid. Using the different points of views, tones and descriptions in the three stories listed above, the children or adolescents in the stories have a sense of innocence that is somewhat lost by the end of the story.

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According to Dictionary.com the word innocence is defined as "lack of knowledge or understanding and harmlessness," ("innocence"). In one way or another, this definition is upheld in all three of the stories. James Joyce, Toni Cade Bambara, and Jamaica Kincaid wrote short stories that all contain underlying messages of children loosing said innocence. Whether it is a preteen feeling the inexperience of love, a child learning about different classes of people or a little girl being told how to grow up, innocence surrounds the characters of these stories.

In "Araby," the main character has a crush on his friend's older sister. It is his first real crush. He follows her as they both walk to school and dreams about conversations they might have, but he would never approach her. They didn't speak until she asked him about the bazaar, Araby. After that conversation he had it set in his mind that he would buy this girl something at the bazaar. When he got there, though, they were closing and the lady gave him an attitude about buying something, which forced him to just walk away. The innocence factor that comes into play in this story is this boys inexperience; inexperience with girls, with love and with life. "Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger," (Joyce, 96). As a child, we try to look at everyone as perfect. Unfortunately, as we grow up, we know that is not the case. "The tone in her voice was not encouraging; she seemed to have spoken to me out of a sense of duty," (Joyce, 95). The woman at the bazaar didn't care about this boy, and he knew it by her tone. He wanted to believe everything was perfect, that he could be perfect by buying his crush a gift. Instead, he was put down by someone who had lost that sense of perfection and innocence in life and he had to just learn to walk away.

The theme of Toni Cade Bambara's "The Lesson," is rebellion. She make's that very clear by the actions of the narrator and her friends. But, there is also an underlying theme of innocence. In this story, Sylvia is the "leader" of a group of kids from Harlem. One summer day, their teacher, Miss Moore, takes this group to F.A.O Schwartz on Fifth Avenue. For the prices of some of the toys in the story, some families can buy food for a year. "'Image for a minute what kind of society it is in which some people can spend on a toy what it would cost to feed a family or six of seven,'" (Bambara, 115). These children learn about social status and wealth and face the face that not everybody is like them. They realize, they may never be the type of people who can afford to buy thousand dollar sail boats as a toy. "'Must be rich people shop here,'" (Bambara, 113). Not everyone in the world is the same. Some are better off, and some live in the slum, that is just the way it is. The innocence Sylvia and her friends possessed at the beginning of the story was equality. They had never been beyond the slums they live in, and now they were experiencing a new area of New York. This opened up their eyes to the reality that these people were better off than they were, and lost that sense of equality in the world. While they savored their four dollars to go see a movie, other's had the funds to go out and buy thousand dollar sail boats.

"Girl" is about a mother lecturing her daughter about how to be a proper lady and how she should act growing up. It is set up differently than a normal piece of literature because there are not full sentences, just commas and semicolons. From how to wash clothes, to how to smile to a man, how to buy bread, the mother goes over every little thing the girl needs to know. "This is how you sweep a corner; this is how you sweep a whole house; this is how you sweep a yard; this is how you smile to someone you don't like too much," (Kincaid, 117). This girl, assuming she is quite young, has no idea what to expect as she grows up but her mom puts it all in perspective for her. How to do this, how to act when, when to do what. These are things we don't know or expect to know as a child. We need to learn how to act, and that happens as we grow up. Instead, everything is being thrown at her all at once, before she can grow up and learn these things for herself. Part of a child's innocence is being able to take their time, growing up, experiencing new things and then learning from the experiences.

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Loss of innocence in a child is a very delicate matter. That time when real life, with all of its imperfections, comes into perspective is a turning point in a child's life. Before that moment, life is perfect, people are perfect, and there are no problems in life. There are many events in life, such as those in these short stories, than can influence the loss of innocence in a young child. Causing someone to grow up to quickly or be told things they should be learning on their own are prime examples of how a child loses that precious innocence that can never be replaced. Once it's gone, it's gone for good. Once a child knows it's their parents putting presents under the Christmas tree, not Santa, they'll never believe in it again. And this lose just continues to grow, first Santa, then the Easter Bunny, then the Tooth Fairy.

Although these stories had many qualities that were similar; they do, however, have aspects that were independent from each other. What they had in common was a child's loss of innocence. In some way or another, a child in the story realized life was not how they imagined it; life is not perfect. In each one however, a different type of innocence was lost. "Araby" was about a young boy's inexperience of love. He thought just by buying her a present, he could make everything right. But then the bitter woman had to ruin it for him. "The Lesson" touched upon the realization of different classes of people. Realizing how other people lived really influence the way these children though and acted. Finally, "Girl" showed the relationship between a mother and daughter as she lectured her on growing up. She was being forced to mature quickly and learn things before she could experience them for herself. Although each story has a different plot, the overall theme of innocence is the same.


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