“The Littlest Hitler” by Ryan Boudinot

31Jan05

It’s all about victimization. Boudinot manages to explore different roles that people had in the Holocaust in this story: victim, victimizer, and those so scared of becoming victims that they do nothing.

It’s ironic, though rather satisfying, to think of a tiny Hitler being picked on. The idea of Adolf Hitler, who is such a symbol of victimizing other people, being reduced to calling himself “lint” in order to escape the taunts and jeers of nine-year-olds is quite gratifying. Okay, yeah, you feel sorry for little Davy for not realizing how people might interpret his dressing up as Hitler for Halloween. The reader sympathizes with Davy for becoming the victim of the cruel politics of popularity in elementary school.

But even from his lowly position, he feels no qualms at making Cyndy his victim, even after she shows him such compassion, holding him when he cries and not telling older boys that he was crying. His nine-year-old consciousness understands the power he can gain by not denying people’s assumption that he and Cyndy had been “doing something raunchy” inside the maze.

The maze incident elevates Davy’s status from victim to victimizer, and he becomes more aware of his new position when he encounters the kids whose parents forbade them from trick-or-treating. He feels a moment of great compassion for the kids, realizes how fortunate he is, and wants to give them his candy. However, he feels “too embarrassed, [he’d] make his father angry. [He’d] call too much attention to the fact that they couldn’t go trick-or-treating. So [he chooses] to do nothing.”

The ending suggests a slight, though not complete, change in Davy’s attitude. He wants to throw his candy in the fire, but reason overtakes him. I mean, who but an idiot would throw away a whole Snickers bar? But he does seems to feel more compassion for the victims, the Jews more specifically, as he lowers his hand to the fire, seeing how close he could get before it hurt.

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