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The secret of fantasy genre’s popularity probably lies in the fact that it integrates ancient folk fairytale tradition with literary approaches in order to address the major issues of contemporary mankind. Wizard of Earthsea (1968), a novel by Ursula K. Le Guin, is a good example of children and young adult literature, as it treats the theme of adolescence and describes the process of maturation, while one is facing the challenges of the world.
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When analyzing the plot of the book, it is worth mentioning that it is influenced by the genre of fantasy. So, there are at least two levels of the plot, one of which is literal and the other is metaphoric. Thus, the novel can be read as an entertaining story about a boy named Ged, who has some partially inborn and partially raised magic skills. He faces a number of situations dealing with his own self or with other people, in which he has to apply his supernatural abilities. Thus, protecting the good and fighting the evil is part of Ged’s adventures, in which he has to overcome certain hardships in order to win in the end.
However, this literal context about young adult fairytale is not the only one that the book is characterized by. Because it is addressed to a certain audience, the theme, raised by the author, concerns coming of age type of issues and adolescence as the time of transformation. The major subject of interest that the author emphasizes when writing the story is to draw a typical pattern of a child’s growth and understanding his place in the world. The book covers the time lapse from the boy’s birth to the age of nineteen, so the reader is able to trace his transformation throughout the plo. At the beginning of the book Ged is alluded by his own supernatural abilities. Because he realizes how powerful he is, he becomes arrogant and believes that he is exceptional. He contrasts himself with the rest of the world, which, according to the author, is his main mistake. In fact, the hero has to grow up in order to realize that his power is part of the universe that surrounds him, and that it does not belong to him. On the contrary, the lesson that Ged has to learn is that his power is the gift from nature that he has to use humbly and gratefully, with respect to all other creatures.
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Adolescence is a period between childhood and adulthood. It is a bridge between two states and two visions of the world. It would be wrong to say that the change that occurred to Ged is very dramatic, yet his transformation is a direction for him to follow in the future, being adult. When the author introduces Ged as a child, he describes him saying that “He grew wild, a thriving weed, a tall, quick boy, loud and proud and full of temper” (Le Guin). At the beginning, Ged knows little about the world around him, his knowledge and experience are confined to his own neighborhood. This aspect is a metaphoric characteristic of Ged in relation to the rest of the world, he is proud because he believes that he is the core of the small universe. Yet it appears that he is small and the universe is large. Broadening horizons is one of the features of maturing. The boy realizes that the world is not divided into black and white, so he becomes wiser and recognizes other shades of the rainbow.
It is also possible to say that adolescence is related to identity search. Needless to say that any type of arrogance is justt another side of timidity. Both states signify the feeling of uncertainty that teenagers often have when questioning their true self. So, any rebellion is a mask of fear, hence it is Ged’s task to learn how to deal with terror. In terms of symbolism, his fights with dragons and his own shadow mark are his spiritual experience, which brings result in the end, since “All the years and places of his brief broken life came within mind's reach and made a whole again. He knew once more, at last, after this long, bitter, wasted time, who he was and where he was” (Le Guin). Speaking about a shadow, it is worth mentioning that psychologists believe that it is part of a human personality. This part is a subconscious, and might be a darker one. However, it is useless to reject it because it is impossible to get rid of one’s own self. Instead, it is worth trying to leave fear aside and looking into the eye of one’s shadow. Symbolically, a shadow is cast because there is light, so in the course of maturation Ged learns how to reconcile all forces inside his soul. Ogion says, “Have you never thought how danger must surround power as shadow does light?” (Le Guin). So, in this context the man instructs Ged about the controversy that his sorcery has, as it can be good or evil depending on how it is used.
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To conclude, it is worth saying that the theme of adolescence is a crucial one in the novel. This time lapse in a human life is meant for transformation from a child into an adult person, and this is what actually Ged does throughout the story. Coming of age is marked by the boy’s transformation, in terms of his attitude to himself, to other creatures, by overcoming his fears and his arrogance.
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