Monday, April 10, 2017

Middle Schoolers are Jerks

            Diary of a Wimpy Kid stands out from all of the other books that we have read in class thus far.  The book is written from a perspective that we have not seen before: the private thoughts of a middle schooler.  Because it is in the format of a diary, the events are presented as they have unfolded in Greg’s life.  They are presented in a linear manner, with some flashbacks interjected.  For example, when Greg discusses the gifts that he hopes to get for Christmas, he jumps back to a previous Christmas from earlier in his childhood.  He mentions that he had hoped his cool uncle would buy the Barbie dream house he wanted.  There was a miscommunication, and he instead got a Barbie doll.  He concludes this story by saying, “So if you ever see a picture of me where I’m holding a Beach Fun Barbie, now at least you know the whole story” (Kinney 118).  Kinney also includes a drawing of the mentioned snapshot, wrapping up the flashback before he jumps back into the present.  This ties into the way that Kinney uses humor throughout the book.

            Kinney’s humor is based on showing the reader the world through the eyes of Greg Heffley.  He constructs this world through combining illustrations and commentary that Greg is making to document his experience in school.  In doing this, Kinney reveals that Greg is not a great person.  He takes advantage of his only friend, Rowley, often, which always leads to something bad happening to Rowley.  In the winter, Greg invents a game where he attempts to knock Rowley off the Big Wheel with a football.  Greg notes, “Rowley kept asking to switch places and have me be the one who rides the Big Wheel, but I’m no fool.  That thing was hitting thirty-five miles an hour, and it didn’t have any breaks” (Kinney 137).  This passage is followed by a short comic of Greg telling Rowley that he does not want to switch because Rowley is so much better at riding the Big Wheel than Greg.  He has no fear in deceiving his friends, and he carries a sort of dented morality that guides him to make reckless yet funny decisions.  However, I would not argue that Greg Heffley is a bad person.  He is a young boy who is still growing up and figuring things out in the world.  As readers, we are able to laugh at his social missteps because they are genuine mistakes that many young children make.  As someone who has worked closely with middle schoolers, I can definitively say that they can be jerks. Their social skills are not totally developed, and their mistakes are often humorous to the people that have more developed social skills.  Kinney’s writing perfectly captures and concentrates all of the possible missteps that middle schoolers make, creating a convincing portrait of the world that many people once experienced when they were young.

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