Parental Influence on Shaping a Child Essay examples

Parental Influence on Shaping a Child Essay examples

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Mothers and fathers have the potential to provide their offspring with powerful, enduring models of behavior, and exert a continuing influence on the reactions and decisions which will shape their children’s’ lives. It is evident that this can be the case even in the absence of the parent. The mother or father who has died or moved away from the family home does not thereby become absent from the child’s memory, and does not thereby cease to guide the child’s behavior. These truths are illustrated by two books which deal with problems faced by adolescents, and which offer contrasting accounts of parental influence – in one case almost wholly negative; in the other case strongly positive, although not necessarily leading to good solutions to the difficulties confronted.
Jean Hegland’s curious future fantasy Into the Forest challenges the reader. It confronts two teenage girls, Nell and Eva, with an extraordinary series of catastrophes, and yet seems to seek a positive message in the courageous and almost implausibly stoic way in which they deal with isolation, near-starvation, rape and death. Hegland relies in part on the behavioral models presented by the girls’ parents, first present and then absent, to explain their exceptional ability to survive conditions of life, which most people would find intolerable.
Tobias Wolff’s memoir, This Boy’s Life, is filled with colorful characters and comic incident, and yet has a more grounded and realistic tone than Hegland’s tale. The author, as a young boy and then a teenager, shares none of the bravery and moral fiber of Hegland’s Nell and Eva. In fact, his behavior is problematic throughout the narrative. The parental context for young Toby is a shattered one; a struggling mother paired ...

... middle of paper ... turns up at the paternal home near the conclusion of the story. It can hardly be denied, however, that his pure absence affects Toby’s life, if only by creating the space for the destructive father figures who replace him. Toby’s mother, while constantly present, might easily be absent for all the influence she has on the boy. In Into the Forest, the models of behavior provided by Nell and Eva’s parents, who linger influentially after their deaths, are powerful in shaping the girls’ reactions and decisions. The reader is left in some doubt, however, whether the final decision, to retreat into the trees – to “enter the forest for good” (241) – is either wise or realistic.

Works Cited

Hegland, Jean. Into the Forest: a Novel. New York: Bantam, 1998. Print.
Wolff, Tobias. This Boy's Life: a Memoir. New York: Grove, 1989. Print.

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