By John Rocha, Sr.
We have heard, probably on more than one occasion, “Boys will be boys,” whether it is not doing their homework, showing up at the end of a school day at carpool covered in mud or dirt, or even covered with literal and figurative bruises after a verbal or physical skirmish. I propose that this phrase makes a caricature of boys rather than shedding light or detail on what goes on in a boy’s life or mind. Grown men may not speak aloud, but my thoughts are that Pinocchio, a fairy tale, can be viewed as a day in the life of a ten-year-old boy. My reflections are not based on the animated Pinocchio created by Walt Disney. There is a distinct difference between Walt Disney’s animation, with which we are all familiar, and Carlo Collodi’s original tale of the puppet.
Looking at Chapter XXVII and the beginning of the next for evidence of this proposition, the readers see a series of interactions that would happen to any boy and when asked how was his day…he would quietly respond, “alright” or “no big deal.” Reading Pinocchio may scare or worry a few moms, but in reality it is a window of hope, that not all that is said to a boy is ignored by him, but rather words, lessons, advice and most of all actions do come back to him at the time least expected.
Chapter XXVII begins as Pinocchio is a point of ridicule for a group of boys, and he stands firm in asking why? The group of rascals state because they wanted Pinocchio to miss class and be shamed for being punctual and diligent in his lessons and ultimately not study in a hard way. Such peer pressure is common today as it is illustrated in the story; using his book knowledge and that which he learned at home, Pinocchio uses a simile to describe the seven rascals, as they are “like” the seven deadly sins. The rascals take it as an insult and they come to “fist of cuffs.” Pinocchio is quick witted as his description is correct as the seven rascals are his temptation toward sin. The fight ensues with seven boys vs. one wooden puppet. The boys do not have a chance as with each punch or kick they give Pinocchio their hands or feet become bruised by the hard wood. Since the hands of the boys are not harming Pinocchio, they begin to throw anything they might have at him, especially school books. Instead of landing a Treatise of Arithmetic on Pinocchio, the book hits the temple of one the ruffians, and as he “turns white as a sheet” he yells aloud, “Oh, mother! help, I am dying!” Upon falling on the ground, the rascals believe he may be dead, so off they run leaving him laying on the ground.
Pinocchio who never wanted this to happen, sits sobbing beside the fallen boy, Eugene. Two soldiers approach Pinocchio finding out what happened and tending to the fallen boy. Pinocchio denies any wrongdoing, but as it becomes clear it is a book belonging to the puppet, the evidence points to him as the perpetrator. When the soldiers see the local fishermen treat the boy, they escort Pinocchio to the village jail. As they are walking, the wind blows off the hat of the puppet, and he asks if he can retrieve it. As he walks a few paces away, he scoops it up and runs off to the seashore.
This chapter strikes me as a day in the life of a ten-year-old boy, perhaps because it brings back memories, or the day to day interaction I have with boys? I am in no way trying to scandalize moms, but a boy’s life is full of adventure, mostly caused by the decisions he chooses. There are plenty of rascals in world; whether yours or my son falls into the group of rascals or chooses to stand firm, know the decisions he chooses will not always be the right one, or easy, even if his intent is toward the good. Life is an adventure, whether it involves name calling, or a boy’s own school books being thrown at him. Boys listen to those whom they love and they admire…advice and lessons are integral to their day to day decisions; it is learning from such moments that boys build their knowledge of or toward the good. Boys will see the good in our actions, but their prudence will grow as they implement right choices. Geppetto tells Pinocchio that their house has changed at the end of the story because of him, “Because when boys who have behaved badly turns over a new leaf and becomes good, they have the power of bringing contentment and happiness to their families.” Pinocchio is a story of seed planting and with the right and continuous nourishment prudence sprouts. Are we planting the seeds of virtue in the hearts and minds of our children, so that over their lifetime, prudence will sprout?