Rule Of The Bone
By Russel Banks The many critics who comment on " Rule of the Bone" tend to discuss the depiction of Chappie, the protagonist, in relation to the way other authors, both modern and classic, have depicted boys his age. Those who focus on the modern aspect are trying to decide if Chappie represents the usual fifteen year old boy, or if his story is one of an unusual childhood. The other critics see Chappie's story as a parallel to a boy who has had a tough beginning and then proceeds to abandon his current situation for a life of adventures. Both approaches, however, are accurate in that they depict a situation which, while somewhat outlandish, does appear conceivable to many teenage boys living in the end of the twentieth century. Guy Lawson acknowledges this view, but tries to prove that Chappie is really a boy with classic values trapped in the 1990's. Specifically, he compares the depiction of Chappie with that of Paul from Independence Day by Richard Ford. Paul does many "bad" things which his parents do not like, and is meant to be viewed as a rebellious teenager who just seems to want to do as much as he can to get in trouble. Much like Chappie, he has a strange haircut, pierced body parts, a tattoo, and has a habit of shoplifting. But Lawson points out that Chappie does not do what he does to be bad, but rather "to remember the innocence of his childhood...like the time when his grandmother read Peter Pan to him (Lawson 42)." Lawson contends that Chappie should be viewed more like Huck Finn, not as a bad kid, but a "man-boy hiding from society (Lawson 42)." Both boys are forced to leave home because of the abuse they suffer there, both meet interesting and life-long friends along the way (Jim and I-Man), and both go on fascinating adventures while everyone else presumes they are dead. Additionally, and most importantly, both Huck Finn and Rule of the Bone are told from the boy's perspective, while Independence Day is told from the perspective of the father. This leads to different explanations offered by the narrators for the boy's actions, and accordingly different opinions by the reader. There is more to the parallel between Huck and Chappie according to Lawson. He says "For all its satirical edge, Twain's novel is set in a stable, small town society with families intact. Huck, the bottom dog, was the exception. Chappie, for Banks, is the rule. Alone in the world, Huck and Chappie are trying to create their own sense of morality. But Huck's journey is a tale of American innocence. Chappie's wanderings are disjointed, often grim-the travels of experience (43)." Lawson feels that Banks was making a statement that while Chappie and Huck appear similar on the outside, they are very different because of the ways their various societies have acted upon them. Chappie has been corrupted, and therefore his journeys are not ones of innocence, but rather of escape. This sentiment is echoed by other critics, such as Jess Mowry. Mowry says that no longer should Huck Finn or Holden Caulfield (Catcher in the Rye) "remain the bibles for kids of succeeding ages...because neither Huck nor Holden would survive twenty-four hours homeless in most American cities today (Mowry 826)." Mowry continues that Chappie's story is less like a true story of a kid alone on today's streets, than the "summer afternoon dope-dream of a suburbanite ninth grader sprawled on his bed with bong in hand," and that "I know real homeless kids who'd give all their spare change to be in Chappie's place (Mowry 826)." So the sentiment is that Bank's story is not an accurate description of what goes really goes on, and that not only is this story implausible, but would appear as a blessing to many real homeless kids. This critique destroys the image Rule of the Bone had of being a true depiction of life for a real teen. Other critics, however, do not agree with such a negative review of this book. Ann Hulbert feels that Bank's story has the potential to become a greater classic than Catcher in the Rye. The reason is that Chappie has an original voice which speaks not only to youths but also to adults, as she feels the story is intended as "an indictment of a decaying and divided era, which is meant to be heard by adults (Hulbert 40)." Chappie is meant to convey a feeling through his story which will be recognized by adults as a comment on the problems of the world, but he does this in a way where no one reading the story views him as complaining or self-righteous.