American History X and the Epidemic of Youth Violence

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American History X and the Epidemic of Youth Violence

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,

That saved a wretch like me.

I once was lost,

But now am found,

Was blind but now I see.

--Shaker hymn

James Garbarino (1999) discusses the boys who are lost and ways that they can learn to see again in his book Lost Boys: Why Our Sons Turn Violent and How We Can Save Them. He takes an in depth look at what he calls the "epidemic of youth violence" in America in order to determine its causes and origins. By gaining an understanding of the problem, Garbarino hopes to be able to ascertain some sort of solution. He provides useful advice and insight about steps we as a society can take to ensure our boys do not become lost. In order to develop Garbarino’s ideas in my mind, I thought it would be interesting to apply some of his points he makes in his book to a case. I chose to write on the two main characters, Derek and Danny, in the movie American History X. I will provide a brief summary of the movie, followed by an extensive examination of the characters, using Lost Boys as a critical lens. First I will discuss the importance of viewing the boys lives in their entirety rather that isolating one incident. I will then look at the risk factors and the racial implications involved in Derek and Danny’s life. The next two sections will focus on the lack of a father figure and the powerful influence Derek has as a result of the absence of a father. Then I devote a short section to Garbarino’s idea of affirmation instead of discrimination and how this could have helped Derek and Danny. Before concluding, I take into account psychologist James Gilligan’s ideas on violence and how they apply to this case. In my conclusion, I look at Garbarin...

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...n an entirely different meaning. We need to be aware of the presence of gangs in our society. Leaders of the gangs can offer positive things provided that they do not encourage violence. As educators, we must try to instill these positive actions by encouraging open mindedness.

The problem of youth violence is not an unsolvable one. Although fictional, American History X provides an accurate example of how youths can make the transition from violent behavior. We must work to seek out the blind and the lost boys to help them find their vision in a world that is so often covered in darkness.


Garbarino, James. Lost Boys: Why Our Sons Turn Violent and How We Can Save Them. Anchor Books, New York: 1999.

Gilligan, James. Violence: Reflections on a National Epidemic. Vintage, New York: 1997.

American History X. New Line Cinema, Los Angeles: 1998.

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes james garbarino's book lost boys: why our sons turn violent and how we can save them.
  • Analyzes how american history x tells a tragic story that focuses on two brothers, derek and danny vinyard.
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