Ignorance is Bliss
Young. Blameless. Innocent.
Popular media depicts children as the white snow of the world. TV and movies show children as clever and energetic. The construction of our school system educates normal kids with normal lives who are ready to learn and flourish into great members of society. Unfortunately, all children are not normal.
Helpless. Incompetent. Vulnerable.
Some children become confined by life and become forced to abruptly grow up, without any alternatives. Generation after generation, millions of children do not experience the luxury of youth and innocence during their childhood. All too often, children find themselves in the position of adults, while their days of ignorance quickly disintegrate and become completely nonexistent. Usually these children, who become forced to cut childhood ties, undergo emotions too difficult for children to express or articulate. If some sort of light could reach these children, the light would take the form of words.
Books. Novels. Stories.
Numerous literature for adolescents has been written that address these children’s intricate emotions and look straight into the depths of their souls. They create an outlet in which kids can feel safe and understood. The books reach these children; the books understand these children; these books know the complexity of their problems.
Bruno, the young child in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, becomes exposed to sites that no child should witness. Because Bruno’s father serves as an assistant to Hitler and oversees the concentration camp in Auschwitz, his family lives next door to the camp. Overtime Bruno develops a relationship with an imprisoned Jewish boy and, although Bruno does not fully grasp what is happening around him, he loses his innocence when the unthinkable happens and his soul takes one final bow.
While growing up in Nazi Germany and simultaneously losing her innocence, Liesel, the young girl in The Book Thief, experiences horrific events. Her younger brother and her best friend both die in her arms. As a child, she is separated from her mother. She is a victim to verbal abuse. Hunger remains an ordinary, everyday experience. She is only a child, yet she has seen the world at its worst; death is her narrator.
Katniss in The Hunger Games loses her closest companion, her father. In addition to holding herself together, she has no choice but to rise above the grief in order to become the breadwinner for her family. If she does not, no one else will; her family would starve to death if she took no action. She witnesses death and suffering during the games, yet she always remains strong for her young sister, Prim. Life has given her no other choice, innocence is not an option.
Light. Understanding. Hope.
Although these books are dark and dismal, they serve as a beacon of light to their readers. Before reading books, where death is commonplace and young people suffer, children who have lost their childhood had no escape from their own problems. They find the main characters of these books relatable. The characters understand their situations. They can sympathize with them. Even though these books do not top “The Happy Ending” charts, they embrace lost children. Although ignorance may be bliss and an unknown luxury, the knowledge of understanding is empowering.