Who Would You Be if You Were Hidden?

For me the most affecting part of Among the Hidden is Luke's isolation, how he spends the beginning of the book in a strange sort of limbo that's drawn more and more tightly around him as the story progresses.  First the outdoors are taken away, then the ability to eat in the kitchen, then he can't even walk by a shuttered window for fear of someone seeing his shadow.

What's left? He sits in his room. He rereads books. He eats in the stairwell. There are some attempted conversations with his brothers, but really, what is there to say?

Everything changes when he comes into the orbit of fellow 3rd child Jen. Jen, though Hidden like him, is allowed outdoors on shopping trips and interacts with a large number of other kids online. It struck me how much bolder Jenny is in terms of characterization than Luke. She's brash, smart, passionate and more than a little entitled while Luke is basically a nice young man, dutiful and curious. Put next to Jen he seems sweet if a little bland. That starts to change though once they begin to interact. Jen offers him new ideas about the government's laws and their fairness, she gives him new books (leading to his attempt to get his Dad into hydroponics)  and finally she offers him a way to act that might change his world for the better. 

It's not until Luke begins the struggle to assimilate these ideas that we see him come into focus and his characterization broadens and deepens.

I think this is a great look at how all of our personalities are built. We grow up at home with our families, safe and sheltered, and it isn't until we start venturing out on our own and encountering new disruptive ideas that we begin the process of becoming who we are. One person after another crashes into us leaving little behind bits of their personality, their values and beliefs. You take some whole or in part, you react against others, you leave others behind.

I know, for me, my interest and pursuit of the arts was inspired by people I met growing up. I can't even begin to imagine all the ramifications of that. My sense of humor was seriously informed by watching endless Steve Martin movies with my high school friends. My analytical nature was focused and intensified by experiences I had with teachers and fellow students in college. Some early awkward attempts at friendships and dating also made me a little shy, a little tentative, a little slow to get to know people. I finally became comfortable with who I am and where I am in life because of my wife.

It's hard to even conceive of myself without these experiences. Without these people in my life I think I'd be about as blank as Luke seems before he has that first encounter with Jen.

What do you guys think? How much of who you are is because of the effect others had on you? Who would you be if you were one of the Hidden?


lotusgirl said...

Very interesting thoughts. I loved that series and Luke's growth definitely had something to do with it. If I had been trapped inside, I think it would have made me angry and rebellious. Actually, I probably would have been caught and killed before I reached my teen years.

Angie said...

Good post! I think if I were one of the hidden (like Luke rather than Jen) I would've retreated (farther) into my own little world of stories--but even stories need some outside interaction to form. Luke didn't have tv, radio, internet, or even many books, that I recall. I might have gone a little bonkers.

Jana said...

When I first started this book I didn't expect there to be so much "seriousness" when it came to Luke being hidden. I thought that local people would know he existed. But as I read it I felt so sorry for him and the life he had to lead because he was a third. It made me wonder if no life at all would have been better. The ramifications for a third child in this society were deathly! I loved this series!

Jeff Hirsch said...

My thoughts exactly Jana! His life was so restricted it was hard not to wonder what the point of even being alive was. It's amazing that pointlessness didn't seem to weigh him down as much as I think it would me. It would take quite alot of strength of character to keep going with so little hope.

Elana Johnson said...

Excellent questions. I think we have a core to who we are. Luke doesn't like sitting in the stairwell. He wants to leave, listen to the radio, etc. That core part of him is what he uses to get brave enough to meet Jen.

We all have that core part of us that sometimes spurs us to action.

After that, I do think the people we interact with help to form and shape us into the people we are.

Mandy P.S. said...

When I first starting reading the book, I had to check a couple times that Luke was really 12. To me he didn't act or think like a 12-year-old, more like an 8-year-old maybe. However, as I got into it I began to realize it was because he was hidden. His entire family was treating him like a baby, so he was a baby. Without outside interaction, with only our family around, we would all just become our family roles. We would have no other norms or expectations to fulfill.

I can't imagine having Luke's life. My family moved so often when I was growing up that strange and new environments were a way of life. They shaped me into who I am. I can't imagine having lived in the same house all my life, let alone being trapped in that same house.

Jeff Hirsch said...

Hi Bittersweet. I totally agree, this book struck me as super young early on. But in retrospect it does make sense. He's stunted by his circumstances.