Dr. Richard Kalfus

 

ARE WE THE HELPLESS PRODUCTS OF OUR UPBRINGING?

Adolf Hitler had an over indulgent, but loving mother but an anal, overly strict father who never displayed any affection for his son.

Rudolf Hoess, the commandant of Auschwitz, was taught early in life to follow unquestioningly whatever his parents told him to do. In his memoir, written in prison before his hanging, he makes reference to a childhood devoid of any demonstrative signs of love from his parents.

A German child-rearing manual from the mid-nineteenth century warns parents not to show overt affection for their babies since this may hamper them in achieving the important goal of raising a child who will always be obedient.

Read Document 51 in Kalfus: Primary Source Documents.

Now read the following poem: THIS BE THE VERSE by Philip Larkin  (1922-85)

They fuck you up, your mum and dad,
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another’s throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.

 

 

 

QUESTIONS

 

1.         Do the childhoods depicted here justify the actions of the adults?

 

2.         The poet is clearly angry as he writes about “the cycle of abuse.”

 

            a) How does he do this?  (e.g. What images does he use?  The poem rhymes. Why?)

                       

            b) Who is to blame?