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A coming-of-age story

May 14th, 2010 No comments

In literature, there are many themes that we find over and over in many cultures and from many periods in time. One of these reoccurring themes is the “coming-of-age”, when a young person goes through the transition from childhood to adulthood and has a significant life experience. It is clear that these coming of age stories are crucial component of our self-conceptions and representations.

We all know lots of “coming-of-age” stories. We’ve read them in books, seen them at the movies and on TV, and in plays and operas. Usually, these stories are of the heartwarming variety. A young person confronts the frightening prospect of growing older, leaving youth for adulthood, and dealing with a world far more complicated than he or she had thought it was. Sure there’s pain to be encountered along the way, but in most of these stories the person eventually sees maturity as a reward – and painful growth as a passage into a new world filled with prospects and promise.

But what if the new, “grown up” world seems bleaker than the old one? I think, when entering adulthood, instead of grieving over the loss of youth, we should revel in newfound possibilities. The “coming-of-age” story then is not a tragedy, but a heartwarming tale of growth and fulfillment.

One reason for the popularity of this theme is simply that it is a universal experience. Everyone, no matter when or where they were born, has to grow up at some point, and being able to read about someone else’s experience can provide young readers with something that they can relate to, and it provides older readers with memories of the past. Read more…