Lit React ~ Analysis & reactions on works of fiction.

24 Jun 2011

(Short Story) Occupation by: Charlie Taylor

(Reaction) In the Eyes of a Ten Year Old by: Patrick Shane Diaz

Occupation deals with the innocence that children have, pure and simple; even in the face of danger and adversity. It is this innocence that felt distrust, and severe emotional trauma and heartache, that in the end governed the psyche of young Jimmy. Jimmy and Robert, both being at their young age, were naturally curious with the events that unfolded during the past few days. Innocent as they were, they did not realize the gravity of the situation they were in.

The short story is set in mid-century England, one under occupation. Jimmy experiences enormous emotional setbacks as he watches soldiers march into his home and shoot his father for being part of the revolution. For any ten year old, going through this amount of trauma and emotional setback is a huge feat. However, Jimmy was trained by his father to be strong, to not to be affected by sorrow, and to not show weakness. It is apparent that a child is a reflection of his father, as he gains knowledge that is taught, but more on what is seen and imprinted upon.

Miss MacIntyre chooses to distract Jimmy by putting her spaniel named Shandy into his care. She believes that having the innocence of a child, Jimmy would turn to Shandy as his confident, one he can tell the secrets of his feelings and his father's rebellion to. She had heard Jimmy crying and thought it best to leave him to exhaust his emotions. But enough was enough. Boys, she knew, needed to be kept occupied. And so did dogs.

It can be seen in the story that Miss MacIntyre also was in need of an outlet for her emotions. Having sent Shandy into Jimmy's care, she needed to cry, and process her emotions on the events that unfolded. This can be a contrast to the level of innocence of an adult and that of a child. Miss MacIntyre needed time alone to cry, and feel what she needed, while Jimmy had to be with Shandy, to distract him from what he was about to face.

Jimmy, being a ten year old, finds trust in Shandy, as the dog can keep his secrets, and be one that he can talk to, to share his feelings without having the fear of being turned away. Though he was trained by his father in the ways of the world during that time, Jimmy suddenly feels the sense of being an innocent child. It may be this training that makes Jimmy able to cope with the traumatic events, but at the end of the day, Jimmy still had to have someone to help him, someone to talk to, confide to, and befriend.

Compelled by the curiosity of a ten year old, Jimmy had to check if the parcel was there in his house, and in effect show Robert to his death. It was also not able to compensate for the emotional needs of a ten year old; needs that Jimmy had to find with Shandy, only to be let down in the end.

Trust given is opposite in proportion to the level of innocence of a person. As children grow up, their level of trust in others is bound to decline. Older, less innocent people have the tendency to be on their guard, move with caution, and in effect, trust less. Jimmy being innocent as he was, trusted completely in Robert with his secret, trusted Shandy with his location in the end, Miss MacIntyre with his future. The author chooses to end the story in this manner so as to show that given trust is a huge thing for a person, much more to a child. It is something to be treasured, and not squandered in any way.

Robert also had the innocence and curiosity of a ten year old, one that made him go back to Jimmy's house, one that led him to his death. This innocence and curiosity of Robert showed that children will always be children, Jimmy would always need Shandy, Robert was bound to be curious, and they both were to do things children do that adults may not find as something innocent.

Children look up to adults to know what to do,. That is the importance of family figures and parents in a child's life. Jimmy would expect Miss Macintyre to know what was happening, he would expect his mother to take care of him. It is a fact of life however that no one knows everything. It is just an irony in life that children tend to expect that of adults; to tell them the ugly truth, and have it sugarcoated to preserve their innocence.

Charlie Taylor chooses not to state the event that came after the last scene for two reasons: one, that it is left to the reader to choose what ending he perfers based on his imagination, or two, since it is obvious and too heavy to write.

It is possible that the story is entitled Occupation not because of the setting, of a country under occupation, but because of the act that Miss MacIntyre felt Jimmy needed. She kept him occupied, put him in a state of occupation, so as to keep his innocence and shield him from the trauma.

Review:

The innocence of a child can be a burden or a gift that they have. Thankfully, they see life half-full rather on the half-empty point of view.

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