Tuesday, December 2, 2014

For King and Kinney

Diary of a Wimpy Kid is more than just a humorous “journal” of the day-to-day life of Greg. It is an account of the trials and tribulations associated with leaving childhood and entering adolescence. The humor of the story arises from Greg’s mishaps and the way he interprets the various new problems he encounters in middle school. These problems range from bullying, meeting girls, being popular, bulking up, etc. Greg suddenly finds himself thrust into a world in which every person judges him for each and every one of his actions in his life. The value of the story comes from the fact that author, Jeff Kinney, is addressing very real societal concerns.
For example, Greg notes that every year the school is forced to watch the movie, “It’s Great to be Me.” He writes, “The movie is all about how you should be happy with who you are and not change anything about yourself. To be honest with you, I think that’s a really dumb message to be telling kids, especially the ones at my school.” (150-151). Under this excerpt is a cartoon of a bully pushing another child over while saying, “It’s great to be me.” The line between Kinney and Greg in this particular passage in almost indistinguishable. Our society has the tendency to reward children for virtually every action they do. I’m not saying it is a bad thing at all to constantly surround children with positive feedback, that type of environment certainly fosters happiness and healthiness. However, we need to dedicate more attention to condemning negative actions, even when they aren’t being performed. Kinney is raising the very real concern that some children are growing up not understanding that their actions are wrong. He believes that we should focus now on constantly reminding children how they should treat one another because as children, their moral compasses are just starting to be constructed.

This passage reminded me somewhat of King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” in which he calls for an end to the societal structures that allow and propagate injustice. Kinney is making a similar plea by showing the humorous concerns and stresses of a young adolescent’s life. Sure Greg’s problems seem trivial to us now as adults but it is essential to remember that these children are slowly becoming the people they will be for the rest of their lives and it is our duty as their mentors to help guide them on a path to making moral decisions that benefit themselves and others.

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