Topics: Illegal drug trade, Rudyard Kipling, If— Pages: 6 (1288 words) Published: May 2, 2015

Adulthood and Growing Up:
A Multidisciplinary Approach to the Humanities and Culture

Natalie Goldman

Adulthood and Growing Up:
A Multidisciplinary Approach to the Humanities and Culture

One of the most fundamental themes in art and culture is the development of the individual from childhood and adolescence, into adulthood. This transformation from a boy or girl, to a man or woman is one of the most essential and significant themes that run through the gamut of any culture’s milieu. Moreover, this theme also runs through a multitude of forms and creative works, such as poems, films, songs, dance, and the like. This thematic complexity may be attributed to the essential human experience of “growing up”, such that all humans undergo a sort of transformation from innocence to being a responsible contributing member of society. In this regard, Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If” is of particular import, as it embodies the theme of adulthood prevalent in other cultural media. In line with this theme is the Fernando Meirelles’ film City of God, which also tackles themes of growing up, albeit in a distinctly different environment and setting. Set in the backdrops of Brazil’s infamous favelas, City of God is a tale of adulthood and maturity in the face of poverty and societal alienation in the modern world. Finally, the painting “The Voyage of Life: Manhood” by Thomas Cole may also be

examined as representative of adulthood and growing up. These works, taken collectively, may be seen as a critical endeavor by artists – as cultural agents – to document the universal essence of change in society, as well as the emergence of responsibility in adulthood, amidst trials and tribulations. Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If” is a critical starting point in the discussion on adulthood and growing up. This poem – a classic in its own right – puts forth a mandate on the different rules of being a man, if Kipling is concerned. Such a delineation of the different rules with regards to manhood and adulthood is put forth by the narrator and addresses the reader directly: “If you can dream—and not make dreams your master; If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim, If you can meet with triumph and disaster And treat those two impostors just the same;” (Kipling, 1956) Poverty is prevalent in “City of God” – both in the social circumstances of the film’s characters, as well as in the physical appearance of the favela. “We came to City of God to find paradise”, Rocket narrates against the backdrop of the 1960s. And yet the city disintegrated into the urban slum and shantytown by the film’s end, only around ten years after Rocket and his family moved to the neighbourhood. What caused this? For one, there was no stable employment. Ray Bromley, in his essay “Working in the Streets: Survival Strategy, Necessity, or Unavoidable Evil?”, writes that the conundrum surrounding the urban poor in the city is that “street occupations are characterized by relatively low inputs of capital in relation to labour and by low ‘formal’ educational requirements” (164). Basically, what he is saying is that wages are so low that it is not

enough to support their families. “On-the-job experience and effective utilization of social networks are particularly important in street occupations”, he writes. This may be distinctly seen in “City of God”, where Rocket and Li’l Ze make ends meet by establishing social connections and relationships – most of the times with very, very bad people involved in drugs and crime. This also entails the prevalence of illegal drugs in the favela. In the middle of the film, Rocket describes the business of selling drugs as “just like any other business”. More importantly, he describes that one can make a career out of dealing drugs: from delivery boys, to lookouts, to dealers, to soldier’s, to managers, and then finally to being boss. Bromley narrates that the term ‘work’ in...

Cited: Bromley, R. (1990) “Working in the Streets: Survival, Strategy, Necessity, or
Unavoidable Evil?” In Making a Living in the City. New York: Routledge, 1990:
161-182. Print.
City of God. (2002) Dir. Fernando Meirelles. Perf. Alexandre Rodrigues, Leandro da
Hora. Miramax Films, 2002. Film.
Powell, E. A. (1990). Thomas Cole. New York: Harry N. Abrams
Kipling, R. (1956) “If” in Kipling: A Selection of His Stories and Poems. London:
Doubleday and Co.
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