Wall Street Journal’s Meghan Gurdon is Trapped in Plato’s Cave (A Response to her recent “Darkness Too Visible,” article)
Before reading my post, please read this article!
Yesterday, Meghan Cox Gurdon wrote an extremely divisive article that detailed her problems with the growing darkness of recent young adult novels. Similar to television, censorship is being liberalized and becoming more mature and reflective of a world that seems to supersede our understanding.
Once upon a time, Plato described the journey towards illumination as a daunting journey through a darkened cave. People trapped within the darkness of the cave often become complacent with the darkness or superficial knowledge. Others weigh in on the causes of the predominant darkness and begin to wisely extrapolate about the source and reason for the existence within the oppressive darkness.
Meghan Gurdon certainly proves that her analysis of the current trend of young adult books is woefully trapped within the darkness of Plato’s cave. Her article does not seek to understand the reasons for the darkness. Certainly, young adult readers who are left disillusioned and unsatisfied by their shallow teen lives internally seek this understanding. At this age, they are alienated from adults who have repressed their experience in Plato’s cave or have become encamped at some unreachable point in the cave.
Either way, the teen begins perusing novels written by adults who vividly remember their experiences and have created a repository of memories that pertain to their gradual journey towards the indistinguishable light outside of the cave of complacency or ignorance. Like any work of art, the most adept writer can encapsulate the teen experience and write it in a way that compels readers because the reader can identify their respective journey with the character in a particular story.
This identification with the plights of a character helps shape the powerful emotion of empathy. By forbidding kids to read these so-called subversive young adult books, we are limiting the ability for teenagers to become more empathetic. Some current forms of religion do not help flesh out these empathetic powers because they deny the genuine sorrow and pain that accompanies the human experience. They definitely educate people on mindlessly ascribing to certain belief structures out of social pressure. Good forms of religion endow individuals with the ability to cherish themselves. As illustrated by the Buddha, nirvana is nothing more than the state where we can begin to accept ourselves and be open about our suffering. With that, we can learn to mindful of the suffering of people and learn to be both patient and compassionate to others.
Tragically, Meghan Gurdon misconstrues the true purpose that young adult fiction has for teens. Books like “Hunger Games,” metaphorically showcase the terror of war and violence. From a teen’s perspective, it shows the confusion that settles in when we learn of the justified immorality of humanity. In Hunger Games, the vice of the capital is avariciousness and complacency. They reflect a superficial society that is greatly unsatisfied with themselves so they feel that their unresolved pain should be experienced by others who are undeserving of it.
By blindly condemning the content of young-adult books, we are denying teens the ability to grapple healthfully with their issues. If more teens read books about realistic issues, there would then be less problems with them. Meghan Gurdon writes the article as though she was exempt from the darkness of teen life. Her criticism of the genre is misplaced. She is merely critiquing the messengers of society who would overwhelmingly agree with her sadness over the omnipresent darkness of the world. But, she nevertheless foregos trying to understand the underlying reasons for the darkness of children’s novels. Certainly, if she existed in the world of “Buffy:the Vampire Slayer,” she would be completely ignorant of the monstrous hell hole that lives beneath the musty halls of Sunnydale High School.
In the end, this unwise article from the Wall Street Journal shows that many are comfortably nestled in Plato’s cave. Teens readers though are pining after the illumining lights of understanding and no longer want to remain trapped in their ego’s. Thankfully, teen writers are a brave bunch and are providing our teens today with stories that are reflective of the difficulty of being a teenager. By remembering their experiences, they are providing teens with a way to embrace their demons and seek a way to heal themselves from the torture of being a teen who is conflicted over their identity. Many times, this conflict arises because some adults show that they completely misunderstand the experience of being a teen. By forgetting their struggles and condemning the teen struggle because they’ve forgotten about the pain of teenage inferno, they are helping their cause in creating conceited adults that are insensitive.
Do we forget that the youth of the ancient world actively partook in this violence? Our stories are memories of their horror which educate us about rectifying their wrongs. When we deny ourselves the opportunity to learn from the past, we are granting permission for humanity to be static in terms of ethical evolution. Instead of condescendingly mocking the struggle of today’s teen, we should read these stories and refresh our memories of the teen experience instead of castigating kids who are only seeking help. In this world, we often love to be persnickety or pretend to be godlike in our personal sainthood. But our ignorance of reality and neglect of the bereaved only exacerbates the corruption of our world. So please, Meghan Cox Gurdon, I implore you to read one of those books with an open heart and mind. Please stop embarrassing yourself and the Wall Street Journal with your lack of understanding of the implications and the importance of truthful art!