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  • Gary Seigel

When Bullies Go Unpunished

Many young adult novels set in high school life include characters who bully other kids, and most of the time, the jerks go unpunished.

This is somewhat true in my novel. Sixteen-year-old Haskel faces relentless teasing and taunting from Lucky Miller, a swim champion, who takes his frustration and rage out on him. Though Lucky suffers some consequences, his fate is not what one might expect from such a cruel idiot.

Some might ask— why not give the dope what he deserves?

Life’s not always fair. In the real world, even villains succeed.

A good example of this can be seen in the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip series. Moe shoves, pushes, and irritates Calvin hundreds of times, and Calvin rarely fights back. At one point, Calvin decries his fate:” Never argue with a six year old who shaves.“

The cartoonist himself, Bill Watterson, had been bullied at a young age: “Moe is every jerk I’ve ever known. He is big, dumb, ugly and cruel. I remember school being full of idiots like Moe. I think they spawn on damp locker room floors.”

Some of the great antagonists in literature survive without being expelled from school or fired from their jobs.

Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest causes two patients to commit suicide and forces our hero to undergo a lobotomy. And nothing really happens to her. Even Captain Bligh in Mutiny on the Bounty, displays such abusive behavior, his men eventually mutiny. Still, he sails to safety and ends up getting a promotion.

In popular culture, bullies most often get their comeuppance but not always.

If you think of any other famous fictional bullies in film and literature--let's put politics aside--who survive relatively unscathed, share them with us.

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