"Opening with a short narrative, or story, is a strategy many writers use to successfully draw readers into a topic. A narrative introduction relates a sequence of events and can be especially effective if you think you need to coax indifferent or reluctant readers into taking an interest in the topic. Of course, a narrative introduction delays the declaration of your argument, so it's wise to choose a short story that clearly connects to your argument, and get to the thesis as quickly as possible before your readers start wondering, 'What's the point of this story?'" (Greene and Lidinsky 203).







John McClain

English 1102

Professor McFarland

January 27, 2005


The Survival of the Fittest: Growing Up in the “Culture of Cruelty”


    “Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!” screamed the rowdy group of eighth graders who circled the two boys fighting in the hallway. It was in between classes when suddenly the two boys began to throw punches. One of the boys fighting was the renowned Derek Parker; having failed eighth grade a second time around, he was larger than most of his peers and the most feared bully of the school. Currently pinned down between the bully’s two powerful arms was Jake Manning, who, although squealing like a pig, at least defended himself before the audience of critical spectators. It had been two weeks since Derek had been pushing Jake for a fight, calling him names like “weenie” and “faggot” and humiliating him during P.E.: “Look, guys, it’s Jackie-pooh! What a wuss! Go back home to your mommie!” Jake could no longer bear it: he had to fight to show others—especially himself—that he was a man. For in the eyes of others, he knew that he was either “strong and worthwhile, or weak and worthless” (Kindlen and Thompson 186). If he didn’t prove his masculinity now, he would never live down the shame amongst his peers…


    This story is a powerful illustration of what Daniel Kindlen and Michael Thompson refer to as “The Culture of Cruelty” in their essay. The story of the average male’s journey to manhood is a common tale of hardship and harassment at the expense of other males jockeying for status and position. According to the authors, maleness is something every guy is born with, but masculinity is something that must be earned or socially proven to others; this “performance-based masculinity” (187) requires that every youth (even into adulthood) prove his worth to others through exhibiting the prized virtues of “strength and stoicism” (182), the “dominant image of masculinity” embraced by our culture. Through an examination of Kindlen and Thompson’s essay, as well as my own personal observations, we will see that the negative effects of this culture of cruelty are pervasive and often widely overlooked: it teaches men, at large, not to fully trust one another, to avoid vulnerability in relationships (which would be construed as weakness), and instills in the man that his worth is measured by his ability to perform, not his intelligence or moral character.