The Road to Adulthood

Essay by testsubject666Junior High, 9th gradeA, May 2008

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The inevitable transition from childhood to adulthood represents an important milestone in the lives of all human beings. Few of us cross this generational bridge without some heartache or some painfully acquired wisdom. While the totality of this transformation happens gradually in life, authors and filmmakers often choose to illustrate those crucial moments through which we take that first of many steps toward growing up. The literary and film genre known as "coming of age" explores this universal experience in poignant, often humorous, and sometimes tragic ways. The short story, "Reunion," by John Cheever, and the film, My Girl, produced by Howard Zieff, illustrate the life lessons each of the narrators learns during that crucial journey to archetypal adulthood.

In both stories, the young protagonists- a young boy named Charlie in "Reunion" and an eleven-year-old girl named Vada in My Girl- have missing parents in their lives.

Charlie's mother is dead and his father lives alone; Vada's mother passed away while giving birth to her and her father pays almost no attention to her at all. Because of this, Vada believes that she is responsible for her mother's death. Neither understands much about life or human nature. For example, Charlie has many illusions about his father when he first sees the man in Grand Central Station, thinking that he is Charlie's "future and doom", "[his] flesh and [his] blood (Cheever 1). He has little thought of why his mother divorced his father in the first place. In My Girl, Vada is a very intelligent girl for her age, but is also extremely childish, believing that she is sick all the time. Her best and only friend is a boy named Thomas J.; with whom she shares many secrets, summer adventures, and her first kiss. She befriends...