6 May, 2013
The Perception of War Through the Eyes of a Child
J. G. Ballard’s literary work, Empire of the Sun, is a novel about a child’s experiences
while living in Shanghai, China during World War II. Throughout the novel, Jim, an eleven-year
old British lad, is forced to deal with a variety of issues related to the war. The brutal hardships,
pain, and death associated with war typically take a massive toll on adults, wearing them down.
Yet, in many young children and adolescents, it is often as if war is perceived as almost being a
movie or a time of imagination. Adults and children often differ in their points of view regarding ...view middle of the document...
11). This illustrates just how innocent Jim is and how little experience he has in life.
The perception of war is often greatly separated when it comes to the minds of young
children compared to the minds of adults. For example, many times a child will not understand
the brutal pain and suffering caused by war. Their fascination with the planes and tanks, and
even the imaginative adrenaline rush of saving the country from an invading enemy allow them
to temporarily exclude the scenes of bloodshed, pain and fallen casualties. As noted
earlier, Jim starts out his life-altering journey with a fascination of war and especially fighter
planes. This is expressed when the author describes Jim with his model plane. The author
writes, “Caught by the wind, the model banked steeply and soared across the perimeter of the
airfield . . . skidded along the roof of an old concrete blockhouse and fell into grass beyond . . .
as [Jim] machine-gunned the flitting insects” (p. 19).
Jim’s life begins to swiftly change as he is forced from his life of luxury and ends up on the streets. However, he still does not see the true devastation in the events occurring before him. Again, readers can see the difference in his child like view of the war. It is almost as if it is a fun game when it is described that Jim, “gazed happily at the burned-out trams and tenement blocks, at the thousands of doors open to the clouds, a deserted city invaded by the sky” (p. 97). In fact, the author notes that, “It only disappointed him that his fellow prisoners failed to share his excitement. They sat glumly on the benches, staring at their feet” (p. 97). Jim’s preoccupancy with all of the burned out vehicles and tanks clearly displays his juvenile attitude and observation of the war. The exact opposite view is seen in adults, who see no joy in the after ruin of battle and scenes of death. Even just names of the planes dominate the mind of Jim as he “relished the...