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Coming of Age
When a boy loses his parents he is forced to become a man. Both Empire of the Sun and Night have a character, who goes through the hard times of a war camp during World War II and is forced to grow beyond his years to survive. In Empire of the Sun, written by J.G. Ballard, the protagonist's name is Jim, and in Night, written by Elie Wiesel, the protagonist's name is Elie. There is also a very prevalent controlling idea; this idea connects the two stories together. The idea is that the loss of one's parents forces children to tackle new and much more mature problems and struggles in their own lives. In these stories one can see two young boys become men from the separation from their parents.
First, take the young Jewish boy Elie. This young boy is compelled to grow up because of the harsh conditions he endures and the fact that he has no parents to help him through it. Elie is forced to live in a concentration camp and be separated from his sister and mother. Later Elie becomes separated from his father after his father's death. He is then forced to grow up so he can survive. Elie must make the choice as to whether or not he wants to continue like this. He is driven to become much stronger and he then questions his faith. He asks God what he did to deserve this. He also learns to hold his tongue. When a young girl is being raped by the boss of the factory, he learns to keep his mouth shut because if he does not he will be beaten. He also is witness to two very gruesome hangings. The second hanging seems even more grotesque than the first because the victim is only a child, described as a "sad-eyed angel." The hanging even seems to bother the SS, who are "more preoccupied, more disturbed than usual." And to make matters worse, the child's neck is not broken in the hanging. He must choke to death, a process that takes "more than half an hour." Dealing with very meager amounts of food is just another issue Elie is forced to deal with. Elie is fed mere soup, which is more of a broth, to put it nicely. These examples easily paint the picture of what life was like to Elie on a day to day basis.
Forced to grow up quickly because of the separation from his parents, Empire of the Sun is the story of an English child in Shanghai during World War II. The child, Jim is separated from his parents following the attack on Pearl Harbor. He grows up in a prison camp and adapts to the war and by the end of the book it is all he knows. Soon after being separated he meets an American named Basey. Both Basey and Jim are then forced into the Japanese war camp. There with his new friend and mentor he learns how to deal with real life issues, such as hunger and simply ways to just stay alive. Jim brings food and helps the sick and elderly, such as Mrs. Vincent and Mr. Maxted. He also gets a chance to see how brave and much he has matured when he stands up for Doctor Ransome when he is being beaten. Jim gets in the way of the Japanese officer and forces him either to stop or hit Jim. The officer then leaves the doctor alone. Jim goes from riding his bike around Amherst Avenue, the street his house is located on, to dodging bullets and watching bombs explode in the distance.
In conclusion, both of these stories, Empire of the Sun and Night, show how small, innocent children turn into old, worn men. The boys must mature because they have to take care of themselves; they no longer have parents to do it for them. During war the loss of ones parents forces children to become adults.
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Holocaust literature, Night, Elie Wiesel, Empire of the Sun
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