The Unfortunate Outcomes Of The Interruption Of Coming Of Age

Life often throws promising chances of redemption, learning and growth. It is through life and time that one discovers himself enough to envision his capabilities. It is a long journey and only gradually occurs. This is known as coming of age. The theme of coming of age is described in two very riveting novels; Lives of the Saints by Nino Ricci and The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent. In these novels, the authors are focusing on the protagonists, Vittorio and Sarah. They are two young children who are exposed to great suffering which ultimately arrests their coming of age. Vittorio Innocente, faces great difficulties as his father had left him at an early age. His mother is a misfit in society who caused chaos, and consequently affected him as well. Sarah, on the other hand, is surrounded by superstitions and fear when her and her family arrives to Andover in order to escape the plague in their other country.

Therefore, the protagonists’ coming of age is interrupted due to witnessing or experiencing traumatizing incidents, committing deeds against their will, and being separated from their loved ones leaving physical and emotional scars. Coming of age is interrupted due to witnessing or experiencing traumatizing incidents. One such event is Vittorio witnessing his mother in the barn who was in a unstable state. This frightened him and he immediately ran for help. “I found her in the stable, leaning against the low wall of the pig’s stall, the pigs squealing wildly and a pool of vomit, a pale unearthly blue, sitting viscous on the stall floor. She was moaning lowly when I came up to her; then her body whipped forward and another stream of vomit splattered onto the floor. ” This overwhelmed Vittorio because he had never seen something so disturbing in his life and he did not know how to help his mother in any way. This displays how his natural coming of age is being interfered because he had to witness his mother suffering. As a result, it was as if he is taking the role of his mother whereas Cristina is the child. In this case, Vittorio has responsibilities of taking care of his mother instead of Cristina taking care of his son. Another such event that enhanced Vittorio’s character is the fight between Cristina and his grandfather. Vittorio’s grandfather says; “Was it for my sake you behaved like a common whore? Do you think you’re better than those people? They are my people, not you, not someone who could do what you’ve done. I’ve suffered every day in my life, per l’amore di Cristo, but I’ve never had to walk through this town and hang my head in shame. ” In this scene, Cristina's father is sick and tired of his daughter’s problems that she creates which ultimately destroyed his reputation as the mayor of the village. This quote shows how Cristina affected her father’s life to the point that he curses her. Here, her father is taking the villagers side instead of hers, which shows that their relationship is torn apart. Due to this disagreement between the mother and father, Vittorio is traumatized by this and becomes isolated from his family. To summarize, Vittorio witnessed and experienced several disturbing events that interrupted his coming of age causing him to become isolated from his family and friends. Similarly, Sarah has to deal with many incidents in which she becomes emotionally distressed.

First and foremost, Sarah is greatly traumatized as she goes through immense chastisement from her mother. “I gave her long hateful looks even when she put Iron Bessie to my buttocks until I screamed. Living with the Toothakers had softened me, and so, at first, I bleated like a lamb at slaughter when she hit me. In time I learned to make a jail of my teeth for I would rather have died than cry out to her. ” This quote shows how Sarah began to be petrified in her own family where children should normally be loved and cared for. She therefore believed that her parents were strict and aloof which showed their lack of love and affection for their children. This caused a great distance between the parents and the child. In addition, Sarah witnessed the pain and suffering her mother went through. Even though her relationship with her mother initially was not that intimate, she was emotionally deprived of that motherly love. “She walked with great effort towards us down the corridor, and when she looked up into my eyes, she did not have to speak the words for me to know the feelings that she held for me and for my brothers. Her love was manifest within her starving body: the food that she had refused , perhaps for weeks, so that we could have the tiniest particle of bread; the dress she had sold for a small pinch of meat; the cup she had passed so that her children could quench their thirst, and live. ” This quote demonstrates the sacrifice Sarah’s mother took in order to save the lives of her beloved children. She admitted to her mistake and submissively suffered the consequences that she was willing to take. This showed a great enhancement in Sarah’s character as she came to an awareness of the true love and affection that her mother had for her family. This shows her coming of age to be halted as she witnessed her mother going through so much pain and suffering which established a deep feeling of sorrow and love for her mother, allowing her to have a mature outlook on society. Coming of age is interrupted by committing undesirable acts. In order to help his mother get rid of the “evil eye,” Vittorio went through such extreme consequences at such a young age.

“I had poured the blood, then dumped the chicken and its severed head out of the burlap bag onto the ground. The body was still flaccid, not yet stiff with death, though a black clot had hardened around its neck”. This shows how Vittorio realized his mother’s acts and he did not want his mother to get into more trouble. Vittorio’s love and affection towards his mother was also emphasized which shows how he has matured in this scene of the story. He understood that him and his family were being excluded from society as Cristina was very vocal about her opinions regarding superstitious beliefs and traditions. Furthermore, the villagers’ mistreatment of the family and the absence of Vittorio’s father Mario, also shaped Vittorio’s journey into adulthood. One of these events encompasses Vittorio’s classmates taking advantage of the innocent Vittorio. They were only messing around with Vittorio for fun. In this scene, the boys make fun of Vittorio’s mother’s pregnancy and frighten Vittorio by stating that the head of the baby will be of a snake and the only thing to do would be to “kill the baby the minute it’s born, and cut out its eyes, so the evil eye won’t follow you. Vittorio was very innocent and all he wanted was to be respected and treated equally by his friends. Unfortunately, this only unravelled him into more problems. The boys sexually assaulted him without Vittorio even being able to comprehend what was happening to him. Ricci writes: “First, you have to show us your bird, to prove you’re a man, and then if it’s big enough you can join. ” Even though Vittorio is bullied by the boys, he is still eager to join because he felt isolated from society. This gave him no choice but to make bad decisions. This “initiation” was to prove if he was a man and Vittorio giving in, showed that his innocence was slowly fading away. Therefore, Vittorio’s loss his innocence by committing undesirable acts. Likewise, Sarah’s coming of age was altered due to committing deeds that were against her own will.

At one point, she was full of rage that she attacked one of the townsfolk in the community in order to protect herself. Due to a misconception, Sarah attacked one of the townspeople, thinking she was going to get hurt. “I dragged her to the ground and raked my nails across her bland and milky face. I grabbed at her cap, pulling savagely, and parted her from clumps of her hair before Mercy came from behind and boxed my ears…. I kicked both her shins and bit the web of her hand so deeply that she carried the half-moon scar for the rest of her life. ” Hence, this represents Sarah’s loss of innocence because she defended and protected herself from a violent act. Not to mention, she performed an act that a normal eleven year old wouldn’t normally do. The incident of Sarah committing the act of heresy in order to save herself was a great event that disturbed her natural coming of age. She was only an innocent girl who had no idea of what the Salem witch trials were and why her mother was being captured and put into jail. Unfortunately, Sarah endured so much pain and suffering in prison, that it led to her mind becoming more mature and understanding. “The judge paused some to let the clerk scratch my answers onto paper and then he asked suddenly, as if to befuddle my senses into revealing the truth, “Who made you a witch?” I looked at him, my eyes wide with fright, my lips parted to suck in the air that seemed to elude my lungs, and I could not speak…. . And then I gave them the name they wanted. The name of the woman who was already imprisoned, waiting to die. I took a step off the ledge and said, “My mother. ” This quote symbolizes how her mother was willing to sacrifice her life in order to save her children's. Consequently, this testimony released Sarah and her siblings but sent her mother to be hung at Gallows Hill. Overall, her thoughts and actions were acted out of maturity, not selfishness as she was a young girl and obeyed her mother’s instructions just like a normal child would do. By doing something that Sarah was unwilling to do, her coming of age is obstructed. That being so, both Vittorio and Sarah’s overview of the world began to change throughout the journey of their lives as they performed certain acts that were quite out of the ordinary. Coming of age is interrupted due to being separated from your loved ones leaving physical and emotional scars on individuals. In the beginning of the novel, Vittorio is loved and cared for by his family but slowly he becomes isolated and distressed in life. Firstly, Vittorio’s father left his family in search of a better job, which separated Vittorio from his father. Vittorio remembers his father being abusive and violent towards his mother as he speaks about the time when he attacked Cristina with a glass plate. “I saw my father pick up something from the table, a dish or a bowl, and hurl it towards where my mother sat across from him, wrapped in shadows, saw my grandparents rise up suddenly from their chairs…. her lips forming into scream or soundless horror as the object shattered against her cheek”. . . . . . . the memory was so dim and insubstantial that I could not say if it had actually happened”. This shows the readers that Vittorio did not remember very much of his father however he is a still a child and a memory like that can mentally scar him for life. Without a clear understanding of what his father was like, he never got to experience a father’s love. This interrupted his coming of age because an event like this causes the child to become emotionally depressed and triggers negative emotions such as anxiety and dejection. Moreover, not only did Vittorio lose his father, but he also lost his mother. He had a very close relationship with his mother as he was quite dependent on her. Vittorio’s passage to Canada is the most traumatic event that he had to go through. His mother dies in childbirth and Vittorio suffers from high fever and pneumonia due to such deep separation he was feeling from his mother. ” ‘E morta tua mama,’ he whispered finally, as if telling me a secret ‘E’ morta. ’. . . The next few weeks I passed in a delirium. I had contracted pneumonia, and spent the rest of the voyage, and some time after it, in a high fever. ” This proves that due to such deep separation, Vittorio was emotionally wounded which demonstrated that because he had to deal with such traumatizing events, he was left in total shock and distress. As a result, when Vittorio was separated from his loved ones, his coming of age was restricted. In contrast, Sarah is already isolated from her family whereas Vittorio was loved by his family. Sarah is isolated from her family in the very beginning of the novel. But she later on gains a closer relationship with her family due to such deep emotions.

The first event that shows her separation is when she receives the news that her grandmother has passed away; “Uncle, what has happened?” Her hand found mine and squeezed it painfully…. . I took tiny steps towards the table, trying to multiply the distance and increase the time before hearing what I did not wish to hear. Father stared into his lap and said, “Your grandmother has died. ”Sarah was very close to her grandmother. This shows Sarah’s great sorrow when her grandmother died because she couldn't bare the separation. When Sarah experienced this traumatic event, she becomes secluded away from her family again. This is because she has no one else to connect with. However, when she stayed with her cousin, she instantly connected with her and found that missing love and affection in her cousin and her family. “My cousin and I did everything as with one hand. Whatever work one of us was sent to do, the other would find some strategy to accomplish that same task, so that Uncle would often say with great relish, “Ah, here come my twins. ” And Margaret and I would laugh as we looked at each other. . . ” This evidence shows how Sarah instantly became part of the family and received all the love and attention that she never had with her own parents. When she had to leave her cousin, she was emotionally depressed because she would again become lonesome at home. Therefore, her coming of age was disrupted as she had to face many traumatic events.

To sum up, Vittorio and Sarah both are separated from their loved ones, however, in Vittorio’s case, he initially was loved and cared for by his mother and as the story progressed, the separation from his family outpaced his coming of age. In contrary, Sarah was isolated from her family but the major events in the story helped her realize the importance of family no matter what difficulties come in their way. Thus both characters are separated from their families but each of them are affected differently. In conclusion, the main characters’ coming of age is intervened due to witnessing or experiencing tragic incidents, committing deeds against their will, and feeling deep separation for their loved ones which may leave physical and emotional scars. These two novels displays two characters who go through traumatic events and refuse to break down during difficult times. In today’s society, children have become mentally so mature for their ages that they have ignored the entire experience of being a child. There are many devastating events that happen to young children that trigger negative thoughts and feelings in the child’s mind, corrupting their brain and subsequently losing their innocence.

10 October 2020
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