The Teen Rebel

(by Lance Erlick)

History is full of youthful rebels who took up causes when faced with uncertain futures in the world they were about to enter.

In 1832, after the death of a popular leader, Parisian students rebelled against what they saw as repressive conditions in France and the establishment of the monarchy of Louis-Philippe. In the 1960s American students rebelled in reaction to racial practices and the Vietnam War. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 altered government policy with regards to race, but society in general was slow to change, giving hope to some and uncertainty to others. In the case of Vietnam, as the war dragged on, it became increasingly unpopular because the government couldn’t justify the cost in American lives.

Teen rebellion is often a reaction to uncertainty about their futures. In the case of the 1832 Paris revolt, it came from the loss of a popular leader and anxiety over what they could expect from the new monarchist government. In the case of the 1960s, there was radical change coming in racial policies as a result of the Civil Rights act, the riots of the 1960s, and an opening up of interracial communication as a result of the number of African-Americans who served in Vietnam.

On top of this was the gray cloud of the military draft. A young man could be drafted at any time with limited notice, making it difficult to plan his life. There were student deferments, but that only delayed the draft until the young man gradated and wanted to start a job. Then he had the prospect of military service in an unpopular war.
President Nixon quieted much of the dissent against the war when he changed the draft to be predictable with his annual draft lottery. After each lottery, most young men were confident they would not be drafted while others knew for sure they would be. This removed the doubt as to their future and many young men who were relieved of the draft moved on with their lives.

It is interesting to note that during the longest wars in U.S. history (Afghanistan/Iraq) there was none of the protests from the 1960s. This is likely due to the all-volunteer military in which those who chose not to serve didn’t have to. There was none of the uncertainty from the 1960s since they were not personally affected.

Teen rebellion has also been a reaction against the traditions and practices of a previous generation that for the young have outlived whatever purpose may have been intended. Thus, today we wrestle with issues of gender and sexual orientation that young people are more accepting of than their predecessors. Tradition has held that polygamy and homosexuality are wrong because they threaten family values and yet both existed for thousands of years during which families thrived.

What is interesting is that while we have always had the rebel as a thorn in the side of our traditions, the majority of people throughout history just wanted to be left alone. It was so during the French Revolution despite the terrible conditions under King Louis XVI and during the American Revolution. We tend to forget that the Second Continental Congress in 1775-76 was convened to address grievances with England and in the process they declared American independence. The Constitutional Convention was convened in 1787 to modify the decentralized Articles of Confederation and instead developed a new federal Constitution.

For my novel The Rebel Within, Annabelle’s rebelliousness is in reaction to losing her parents to a government crackdown, and against her government’s policy of oppressing males. Her society challenges the traditional male-dominated world around us. I intended this reversal to let people experience things from a slightly different perspective and I believe I’ve done this without being heavy-handed about it.
The world Annabelle lives in has become a strict, conformist one in order to enforce an injustice—the expulsion and abuse of boys. In order to maintain the New Harmony, the government and social structure demonizes males and forces young girls into military service, much like the American draft in the 1960s.

Annabelle rebels because she feels out of step with her society. She has a gut level remembrance of being torn from her birth mother by government forces. Overcompensating, her adoptive mom, whom she loves, confides too much about her son, Geo, who had to flee to the Outland with his dad. That creates a hunger in Annabelle to meet this boy and boys in general, and to experience something different than her society allows.

For my novel Rebels Divided, Annabelle’s rebelliousness continues with the added pressure of an unacceptable forced marriage. This novel introduces Geo, who rebels against a different society as a neighbor to Annabelle’s. Geo lives in a world that promotes rugged individualism and yet his entire society is controlled by a powerful and ruthless thane. His pa strives to keep Geo out of the thane’s Rangers. Geo rebels against his pa in order to become a man, and then against the Thane for attacking his family.

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