General Theory

Human Nature and Parenting

Alan Sears’ A Good Book, In Theory shows the stark contrast two authors have when it comes to how they view human behavior.  A British man named William Golding wrote the well-known novel Lord of the Flies in 1954, which is about young boys who find themselves in a situation with no parental units. With no authoritative figure to keep them in line, things end up going south quickly. This book ultimately functions under the assumption that human nature is inherently bad and that we need to “tame” ourselves in order to correct and control these human desires. This theory on the human condition portrays people as in need of some form of structure (such as society or authority figures) to control these urges we all have inside – such as greed and violence – and without that structure we would run rampant and destroy ourselves (Sears: 101). This theory is pretty much shown in the movie Purge directed by James DeManaco in 2013 which I found to be completely unbelievable, but in this movie, the government allows for one day a year when there are no laws in place to keep people in check, thereby anything is legal and everyone runs around crazy, slaughtering each other. The movie is definitely on the extreme spectrum of this view.

The completely opposite side of this spectrum is the theory on human nature that states that people can self-govern, and in fact controlling too much can be a negative thing since people – and children especially – need to be given freedom because it allows for creativity and personal growth. Nearly 20 years after Lord of the Flies was written, Marge Piercy, an American woman, published her novel Woman on the Edge of Time, which displays this exact theory where the children weren’t seen as some savages that in anyway needed taming. Instead, the children interacted without restraint amongst the adults and didn’t receive the same level of restrictions because according to this theory human nature is “in essence” creative, not violent or savage. (Sears: 102)

This section of the text resonated with me because growing up, I loved the 2005 romcom titled Yours, Mine & Ours directed by Raja Gosnell. Well, to be honest, it might have just been that my mom played it too frequently, but the movie is about a dad with eight kids from previous marriages who parents his children in a style that is very structured and in every way a military style and a mom who bring her ten children into the marriage and is an artist or designer of some sort and is very hands off and allows the children freedom for their creative growth. This ends up being the source of conflict, which ultimately gets resolved through compromise, of course, but this movie shows exactly the two theories Sears was talking about since the dad’s style is very similar to the belief shown in Lord of the Flies and the mom is similar to Woman on the Edge of Time. I also thought it was an interesting coincidence that the genders of the authors for the novels coincide with the genders of the parents that enforce it in the movie, because in American society there is often the idea that the dad is the firm hammer and enforcer while the mom is more nurturing, allowing the children to grow, or whatever. I’ll have to watch these movies again with these theories in mind for fun soon and read the books Sears mentions for the first time as well.

-Jessi Hebert