Verboten

When one is asked to think about an act they consider “forbidden” I am not sure standing in their house barefoot rather than in clean socks would come to mind. However, for Kyle, one of the three main characters in George Saunders’ “Victory Lap”, simple things that annoy parents could cause an uproar.

Throughout the section of this story that highlights what is going on inside Kyle’s head, we are never blatantly told, but can reasonably infer that his parents imply some element of neurosis, specifically OCD, onto everything that he does.

Kyle describes leaving small pieces of dirt that fell of of his shoes after a cross country practice as being “way verboten” which translates from German to “way forbidden” (11), followed by him mentally rehearsing “what if” statements in his head to mentally prepare himself for consequence if his parents returned home.

After racing to the garage to grab something to clean up the specks of dirt, he realizes he simply threw his shoes into the garage instead of placing them “on the Shoe Sheet as required, toes facing away from the door for ease of donnage later” and tore off his socks, leaving him standing barefoot in the living room, another act that he considered “absolutely verboten” (12).

Moments like this cause Kyle to do something that is a large part of how he handles situations; by swearing in his head. Arguing with himself about whether or not he is allowed to swear in his head because he is not allowed to swear out loud, we can see how his parents’ rules are driving him mad Phrases such as “crap-cunt shit-turd dick-in-the-ear butt-creamery” surround Kyle’s mind, simply because he does not feel he can express emotions and feelings that his parents cause him to have out loud.

Enacting extreme regime in a household, whether parents think it may be beneficial or not, tends to have a very large affect on children. From shows such as “The Strictest Parents in the World” on TLC to the words of George Saunders, we see the impact that reprimanding one’s child can have on their mental well-being.

The disregard of his passion for cross country because “anyone can jog” and credence that “if he [Kyle] wants the privilege of competing in team sport, he must show that he can live in our perfectly reasonable system of directives designed to benefit him”, shows us that Kyle seems to lack any sort of intimacy that a normal family household should possess (14).

There’s a saying that every house is a house but not every house is a home, which seems to ring true in this situation. Home should be somewhere where accomplishments are celebrated, memories are made, and relationships are fostered. In a home where the parents seem to believe that they had children for the sole purpose of their children serving them, a true societal binary nowadays when discussing involuntary submission and dominance, the lack of, in simple terms, love, causes extreme hardship, which can really drive some children to the point of exhaustion.

4 thoughts on “Verboten

  1. Kianna G.

    I totally agree with your statement that Kyle’s house is not really a home for Kyle. Although, I think his parents do love Kyle. They always say everything they do for him is because they love him. They might even set all of the rules because they want him to stay safe, because he is their only child.

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  2. Isabel K

    I agree that Kyle’s house fails to be a home, but I don’t necessarily think that means that his parents fail to love him. In fact, their high standards could be seen as them wanting the best for him. I do agree that this environment is not nurturing or warm, which could end up hurting Kyle (and I think we see that it does when Kyle realizes that he really, really likes breaking the rules).

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  3. Lily M

    I really like your connection to the TV show on TLC. I think this adds an element of familiarity and humor to a very serious topic. The mental abuse caused by Kyle’s parents would stick with any child in reality and I think that is a very common issue that is not touched on a lot in society. I do think however that Kyle’s parents deeply care about his success, they just express this concern in a very bad way. I wonder if their bad parenting could be a reflection of bad relationships with their parents as children.

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  4. Nick W.

    I agree that Kyle and his parents serve as the perfect definition of the parent-child binary relationship. Sure, they may love him, but their extreme rules show how he is dominated by them. They aren’t seeing him as his own individual, and that is ultimately hurting him.

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