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Emapathy=Maturity in Zindel's "The Pigman"

In The Pigman, author Paul Zindel follows many expected tropes in young adult literature: coming of age, wild exploration, passion, etc. However, Zindel excels in his exploration of another important trope of the genre, what Havinghurst identifies as “achieving emotional independence from parents and other adults.” In The Pigman, the protagonists Lorraine and John achieve emotional independence from their parents by learning to understand and empathize with them.

More empathetic than John from the beginning of the story, Lorraine is the more emotionally mature of the two; however, while Lorraine is able to empathize with her teachers and the school librarian, she is initially unable to empathize with her mother. John may arguably be the more typical of the two teenage characters, showing little empathy for anyone at the beginning of the story and by inference, less maturity.

After building a relationship with Mr. Pignati and witnessing his fears, such as being alone and dying witho…
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Pathos, Ethos, and Logos in Hinton's "The Outsiders"

When Aristotle wrote his treatise on the art of persuasion 2400 years ago, he identified its three main elements: audience (pathos), purpose (logos), and tone (ethos). Today, practice still honors Aristotle’s insight as a touchstone for any persuasive document. One reason S.E. Hinton’s novel The Outsiders retains its persuasive appeal to young readers is the way it addresses these three classic elements of persuasion.

Obviously, Hinton considered her audience, whether consciously or not, while writing her novel. Will Rogers High School English teacher Kim Piper noted that “kids here can especially identify with Ponyboy and his group” because they share a similar level of poverty. Will Rogers 9th grader Esteban Rivero said that he relates to the book because “It talks about how youngsters live and how they can get all caught up in their friends and cliques.” Specifically, Hinton establishes the age and socioeconomic classification of the narrator in the first line: “When I stepped out…

"Anne of Green Gables" as Young Adult Fiction

Young Adult (YA) literature is a greased pig, hard to catch and even harder to hold onto. Some define it broadly, pretty much including any work of fiction with an adolescent who is 13-19 years old. With a protagonist who is younger than that it's either MG or "Children's." With a slightly older protagonist, it's now popular to call it "New Adult" (a very hot genre, by the way). Some of the narrower definitions touch upon style (straightforward) and themes (coming of age, etc). There are several tropes in YA, which vary depending on the more specific genre classification. In other words, you can put YA in front of any standard genre and it's considered a new genre (YA Romance, YA Horror, YA Fantasy, etc.).

The problem lies in the practice. Although a true genre should have somewhat consistent themes and tropes, current practice is to classify just about anything with an adolescent protagonist as YA. So if it's a fantasy story with a young protag…

The Influence of "Huckleberry Finn" on Young Adult Literature

Hemingway once wrote, “All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn. There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since" (28). Of course, there have been those who disagree. In an 1885 New York World review, Joseph Pulitzer called The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn "cheap and pernicious stuff” with a "wretchedly low, vulgar, sneaking and lying Southern country boy" as the protagonist. At the same time, The San Francisco Evening Bulletin called the story’s influence on children "not altogether desirable, nor is it one that most parents who want a future of promise for their young folks would select without some hesitation." While Hemingway’s praise overlooks the value of other literature through the centuries into modern times, the fact that Huckleberry Finn remains a pillar of Young Adult (YA) literature more than 130 years after its publication at least partially justifies Hemingway’s enthusiasm for…

On Being Remarkable

I had called it “Kitsap Little Theater.” Our first production was a one-act play called The Day After Forever, and as the 17-year-old director and producer, I took the whole thing very seriously.

It wasn’t my first theatrical endeavor. In the fifth grade, I got involved with a group of kids who had been rehearsing a student-penned play during recesses. When I gave them my "new and improved" version of their script, unsolicited mind you, I was instantly named the play's new director. That might have had something to do with the subsequent departure of the original play's authors/directors, but such a correlation has yet to be proven. Anyway, I was thrust into directorship at a tender age. How very Charlie Brown.

The play made a favorable impression on school-assembly audiences. Ever the marketer/opportunist, I immediately attempted to launch a sequel. However, my follow-up piece, which had something to do with mice and Christmas, never made it on the boards. My later…

When Six Blind Men Read Your Novel

An old tale from India tells of six blind men who viewed an elephant. One of the blind men concludes that the elephant is like a wall. Another believes the elephant is like a snake. The others perceive it as a spear, a tree, a fan or a rope. Each blind man forms his own idea of what the elephant is like, depending upon where he touches it.

One the most famous versions of this story is the poem "The Blind Men and the Elephant" by John Godfrey Saxe (1816–1887). His poem concludes:
And so these men of Hindustan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right
And all were in the wrong.Not to say readers are blind, but when we read, our perceptions can be like those of the blind men. When we write, we may hope we are leading our readers down a particular path, but their individual ideas, temperaments, and other preconceived ideas scatter readers onto different roads.

As an example, look at six schools of thought about…

Satire in the English Renaissance Pastoral

Pastoral literature from the English Renaissance may remind today's reader more of fairy tales and fables than pieces of great literature. Examples from this period could be relegated to the world of kitsch alongside porcelain shepherd and shepherdess salt and pepper shakers or the mediocre oil paintings of impossibly idealized bucolic country sides, second cousins to oil-on-velvet paintings of sad clowns and Elvis Presley. At first glance, the pastoral's ruffle-clad shepherdesses and pan-flute-playing shepherds generally fail to garner much literary respect or stir much interest; however, "first glance" may not be a worthy inspection of this particular genre. These seemingly quaint fables may not be what they first seem; the very fact that pastorals occupied some of the greatest poetic minds of the English Renaissance could imply the form at one time spoke to something deeper and more substantial than a pan flute, courtly shepherd, or velvet Elvis ever could.

The En…