Thursday, October 06, 2005

The Eighth Day

Even in the best of homes, at the best of times, a boy is always in the wrong. Boys are filled with exhausting energies; they enjoy noise; they are (or where would we be?) adventurous and enquiring. They creep out onto ledges and fall into caves and two hundred men spend nights searching for them. They must hurl objects. They particularly cherish small animals and must have them near. A respect for cleanliness is as slowly and painfully acquired as mastery of the violin. They are perpetually famished and can barely be taught to eat decorously (the fork was late appearing in society). They are unable to sit still for more than ten minutes unless they are being told a story about mayhem and sudden death (or where would we be?) They receive several hundred rebukes a day. They rage at the humiliation of being male and not men. They strain to hasten the calendar. They must smoke and swear. Dark warnings are thrown out to them about ‘impurity’ and ‘filthiness’ – interesting occupations which seem to be reserved for adults. They peer into mirrors for the first promise of a beard. No wonder they are only happy among their coevals; they return from their unending games (that resemble warfare) puffed up, it may be, with triumph – late, dirty or bloody. Few records have reached us of the early years of Richard the Lion Hearted; the story about George Washington and the cherry tree is not widely believed. Achilles and Jason were brought up by a tutor who was half-man, half-horse. Their education was all in the open air; there must have been a good deal of running involved and very little mystery surrounding the natural functions.

From the ‘St Kitt’s’ chapter of The Eighth Day, by Thornton Wilder. (Pg 327 of the hardback ediiton).

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