Always helpless, always asking for our protection, books and paintings are full of boys. I once read that Lady Di’s success was in her photos, impossible to take a bad photo of her because her helpless image aroused in the spectator the need to be her friend. The same happens with children main characters, when the book ends we continue having the need to be at their side.
Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, a Baroque Spanish painter, knew it. He worked for the Church and nobles but, in spite of it, whenever he could he transformed Virgins, Madeleines and Saints into girls and boys, preferably poor children… still more helpless.
From Bartolomé Esteban Murillo to Mark Twain exits a gap of centuries and countries. But Twain also understood how a child catch our feelings and imagination. “The adventures of Tom Sawyer” have been a best-seller from its publication in 1876 but his next novel (continuation of this one), “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”, it was a major success since Huck is much more helpless than Tom as well as his problems and sufferings.
How many comics, films or cartoons have been made of both books? Countless.
Psychologists used to say the worst time for a person is adolescence, when all the contradictions are present. Maybe, but if you need a living, if you don’t have food or a place to rest or an adult who takes care of you: then, childhood is worst, and readers or spectators feel into the skin of this scabby cripple boys who are eating melon or bread in Murillo’s paintings.
Recently, other children main characters have had great success: “Harry Potter”, “The boy in the Striped Pajamas” or even “Millenium”, because what moves us of Lisbeth Salander is her childhood, not her present of strong clever woman.
I am going to read “Oliver Twist” by Dickens again and maybe “Alice in Wonderland”. Perhaps I will find inspiration and I can write about a child and I will be famous.
Written by John Glass