Lullabies for Little Criminals

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Obstacles in Lullabies for Little Criminals Nicole Salloum The definition of perseverance is “steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty of delay in achieving success” (28. April. 2012). Growing up with a drug addict father and no real home, a child would need to have a lot of perseverance to just survive. In Heather O’Neill’s novel Lullabies for Little Criminals the main character, Baby, proves that despite hardships, she is able to overcome obstacles and adversity and learn something about life.
One of Baby’s obstacles is that her father, Jules, creates an unstable living environment for Baby because of his inexperience in parenting and his constant drug abuse. However because of Jules, she learns how to take care of herself which leads to her learning life lessons. Secondly, due to Baby’s neglected upbringing she is very much affected by other children including Xavier, Zoe and Theo who each teach her something different about herself and the world. Lastly, the presence of Alphonse in Baby’s life causes many hardships like physical abuse and prostitution that she is forced to deal with at a very young age.
Despite these obstacles, Baby manages to use the experiences to help her grow into the person she is today. Baby’s father Jules has raised her in a very deprived environment. Ultimately, this has made obstacles for Baby which she manages to overcome and learn from. One of the most drastic examples of Baby’s hardships is Jules being arrested for possession of heroin outside of their apartment building. Baby tries to reach him but is hit by a car as she crosses the street, without Jules even realizing.
It was in this moment that Baby realizes Jules needed more care than she did, “I ran across the street to get to Jules and to try and save him” (O’Neill, 56). Nevertheless she still needs a parent figure, but manages to cope without any help. Later on, instead of serving time in jail, Jules makes the decision to go to rehab. Baby is forced to stay with another household that she barely knows and must learn to adjust without her father. Even though Jules has abandoned her, Baby still loves him unconditionally and wants him to come back. Because of this, Baby learns that your child will love you no matter what.
“If you want to get a child to love you, you should just go and hide in the closet for three or four hours. They get down on their knees and pray for your return” (59). This life lesson teaches Baby to become wary of Jules, and make sure she does not have to rely on him as much as she did before. Finally on Baby’s thirteenth birthday, she came home under the influence of drugs and saw that Jules had bought her assorted cheap gifts. She becomes overwhelmed with the realization of their poverty and begins to cry. Despite being only twelve years old, Baby opens her eyes to what her life really is.
She realizes that her innocence is gone and with this also goes her ability to be blind to what her life has actually been like up until this point. -“When you’re young enough, you don’t know that you live in a cheap lousy apartment. A cracked chair is nothing other than a chair. A dandelion growing out of a crack in the sidewalk outside your front door is a garden…It never occurs to you when you are very young to need something other that what your parents have to offer to you” (184). As has been noted, Baby manages to overcome hardships like drug abuse and being neglected by her father.
However because of this environment, Baby learns how to take care of herself and it also helps her understand what real life is like when you become an adult. Throughout the novel, Baby is affected greatly by children that she meets and who become important to her. These experiences with other kids teach Baby more about herself and life. One of the children that Baby is greatly affected by is a boy named Xavier. He becomes very special to Baby because when she is with him she feels as if she is still good and pure, like a child again.
Being with Xavier doesn’t last very long for Baby though because her real life clashes with her need for childhood innocence. Baby’s pimp Alphonse becomes jealous of Xavier and brutally beats him, after this episode Baby learns that innocence does not last forever and the person she was with Xavier was not who she really is. “I was very religious about other children, and I wanted so much to believe that they could save me,” (307). Zoe is another child that becomes a part of Baby’s dark world which involves drugs and adultery. Zoe is constantly trying to act older and influences Baby to do the same.
Zoe is a girl who “didn’t look 13 anymore. She had big boobs and wore a tight black plastic jacket to accentuate them…She was the most popular girl in our circle of juvenile delinquents,” (265). Being friends with Zoe helps Baby see that just because she lives in these horrible conditions she doesn’t have to be like her, Baby also learns more about herself after this realization, “There was a part of me that was smart and original and nerdy too,” (266). Finally, Theo is a boy who comes from a similar abusive background to Baby.
He manages to befriend Baby and they get into a lot of trouble together, like destroying a girls home because she bullied Baby. After wrecking the girls house with Theo, Baby finds that she has feelings for him. When she tells someone about her crush, the girl promptly states that she “by far, had the worst taste on the planet,” (139). In this moment Baby realizes that she is able to love whoever she wants and that her decisions should not be affected by other people. “It didn’t matter what anyone else thought…I was going to make my own decisions about love from now on,” (140).
To sum up, all these children have taught Baby about love, life and changed who she is as a person. By far one of the most influential people in Baby’s life is Alphonse. Alphonse drastically changes Baby’s life by prostituting her out and developing an obsession for her. Nevertheless, Baby still manages to overcome these hardships and learn a lot from them. An example of a hardship she has to face because of Alphonse would be when Baby is prostituted out for the first time by Alphonse. This affects her emotionally and leads to more jobs like this.
“They say that certain things are going to be terrible and that they are going to destroy you, but they don’t,” (222). This quote reflects how Baby learns to cope with her present situation and realizes she is still the same person no matter what. Secondly, Alphonse changes Baby by providing her with heroin which she eventually develops an addiction for. Being addicted to heroin helps Baby understand herself and Jules (who was also addicted to heroin) much more than before. “We were both fools who were too fragile to be sad, and because no one was prepared to give us a good enough reason not to do it,” (287).
This quotation explains that they are both very neglected and need something to forget their problems. After Alphonse brutally beats Xavier, he overdoses on heroin. Baby eventually wakes up to find Alphonse is dead. After she realizes that Alphonse is dead she begins to plan her next step, Baby tries to think of adults that she can rely on to help her out and no one comes to mind. In this moment Baby learns why her life has been so terrible thus far. “When you are vulnerable, the worst of society will fail you too,” (288).
As can be seen from the previous examples, Alphonse changes Baby’s life drastically and helps her learn more about life than anyone else. In Lullabies for Little Criminals Baby has overcome hardships and obstacles in her life that have helped her grow as a person and taught her what the real world is like. Her father Jules has brought Baby up in a very deprived and abusive home. Despite all of this, Baby is able to grow and learn from all these hardships. Basically raising herself, she is greatly affected by children like Xavier, Zoe and Theo. Each of these kids taught her something different about life.
Lastly Alphonse played a huge role in Baby’s life and created many hardships for her. However she was able to cope and learn more about the real world because of him. In conclusion, Baby has had a very hard life with regards to living environment, abuse and prostitution. However, every single time she has been able to stay grounded and learn something from these obstacles. Bibliography O’Neill, Heather. Lullabies for Little Criminals. Toronto, Ontario: Harper Collins Publishers, 2006. Print. “Perseverance. ” Def. 1. www. dictionary. com. LLC, n. d. Web. 28 Apr. 2012.

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