Portrayal – A little boy riddled with anxiety as he perceives the world around him as hostile. Whether it’s personal or not is unclear. Is the world hostile because that’s its nature or is it hostile toward him because he is “bad?” Perhaps it is simply because he is small and powerless and so the world is just that way toward the vulnerable. A close look shows that even the tress and natural surroundings are angry and that they, “see” him in the same way a predator does.
The boy’s eyes grab my attention first. They convey a lot of fear and vulnerability. They’re also wide which shows a state of hyper vigilance, a mode of operating you take on when looking out for danger. He’s looking up at someone much bigger, keeping an eye on the most menacing character in sight. His face overall looks tense and perhaps even aged for someone that young. If that expression had a voice, it might say something like, “Please don’t hurt me!” or maybe it would apologize in advance as a means of defense against the intolerable wrath surrounding him.
His arms are contracted in to his abdomen to physically protect himself. He may be anticipating a strike if he is habitually hit. It’s also likely that his stomach or even entire G.I. tract is in pain from the tension that fear causes it, and so he’s holding that part of himself to soothe as people generally do who have an area of hurt. The stress hormone cortisol is probably running rampant throughout his body, secreting stomach acid and preparing to fight or flee. Chronically high levels of it make him consistently tired and frequently ill.
The adult male in the illustration is walking by the boy, looking at him like he’s a nuisance for just “almost” being in the male’s way. Or, maybe for just being there. The adult female is looking at him as if he is so distasteful, he may somehow contaminate her family, and so he better not be found anywhere near where she happens to be. The little girl has the same look but her dynamic with the boy is interesting. She’s his age and perhaps weaker than he is but still he’s afraid of her. That’s because she doesn’t exist as a separate entity, the little girl. She has her powerful mother as an extension of herself (and probably more family members too) so the boy doesn’t simply see a small girl. He though, appears to have no support whatsoever. The overall message from the other human characters seems to be, “It would be better if you were dead.”
The rest of the illustration continues along this narrative. The trees and bushes are angry and are looking right at him as if to make it clear that no matter where he goes, danger will be waiting specifically for him, but not necessarily other people. The fact that this scene is happening in what would normally be a very safe place – a public park in broad daylight, in a well off neighborhood, is especially sad. It means that even when things are ideal, the world is still a hostile place for you.
It must be absolutely EXHAUSTING to grow up this way, among other things.
***I’d love to hear your impressions! Please leave a comment below.
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