Chris Sutton English 20 Professor Morgan Essay 4 What went wrong in America's Hometown? Two murders within 6 weeks from each other committed by teenagers is a major problem presented in the heart of America. When Ron Powers heard of these crimes, one happening in his hometown, Hannibal, MO, his eyes were opened to this problem of today's children and traveled back to find out just what went wrong. Growing up in Hannibal, considered by many to be 'America's Hometown', the author never experienced greed, hate, or envy as a child. The most responsibility he had was being a traffic officer and save children from getting hit by passing cars as they crossed the street. What baffles Ron Powers is what has happened to today's youth, what has changed in the way children are raised these days that create this loss of innocence, which is why he set out to try and find out what happened through interviews in Hannibal. I feel he successfully expresses his ideals on society through memories of his own compared to the two recent murders and everything he finds out through the interviewing.
Tom and Huck Don't Live Here Anymore: Childhood Murders in the Heart of America is about Ron Power's reaction to the two murders in 6 weeks. He travels back to Hannibal to piece together what reasons were behind the reckless brutality of the children murderers. He begins with character development, explaining who these children were and the events pieced together of what they have done, along with a brief history of each. After this, Powers begins his discussion about the quest he set out on to find out what caused their behavior. Through interviewing family members, friends, witnesses, and people of Hannibal, he parallels the stories with that of his memories of his own childhood.
He uses his personal memories to compare to the childhood of those involved in the murders. Although Ron Powers does not seem to wrap the paralleled stories together very well at the end to make a final conclusion, he makes good sense in how he views the problems of child committed crimes. One good point Powers makes is the essence of setting, the time he grew up in relation to location to now when a sense of location is lost between cities. He establishes that Hannibal used to be the model home town of America with the times of Tom and Huck, when everybody knew everybody, and there was a deep embodied trust among each and every citizen for each other. This is how Powers remembered growing up, in the Tom and Huck ideal, which is not what he found after returning to Hannibal. There was no families barbecuing, children playing in the streets, or a center of the town, instead he found the town hopeless and without any central community.
Powers feels that this lack of unity and family linked directly to the children raising themselves without morals, running free in the streets without rule or law. When they do not be part of their family, they have nobody to absorb moral standards from, instead they look to other places such as video games, television, movies, or other troubled children for things to do out of boredom, usually causing more trouble. Gaining morals from such places may imply humor or excitement in such behavior, and enhance the desires to want to engage in these activities. Powers partially implies that the parents have a role in it, with examples as putting children in daycare, driving further to work thus spending less time with the children, , all having the effect of not spending enough time with the children and teaching them the values they deserve to have.
Another concern of Mr. Powers is the fact that America's Hometown, Hannibal, is not setting a good example as it is supposed to symbolize as a small quiet typical American town that is perfect in every way, free of violence crime and poverty. Different ideas float around stating that murders are part of life and that it happens everywhere, and that Hannibal is no exception, which is true, but the town's title magnifies the significance of the murders in Power's opinion, corrupting "America's Hometown" image, rather than the murders being in the ruins of a large city where such happenings are more common. This setting is Ron Power's main concern and focus of his book. The themes of this book can be viewed as the loss of location and loss of youth innocence. Ron Powers really does a good job of expressing how in the setting, there is a loss of location in every town, with everything becoming the same with Wal-Mart's Walgreen's and strip malls.
He intertwines the experiences of his childhood with those of the two murders and what lead up to them, contrasting the Hannibal and how it used to be to how it is today by comparing his childhood memories being happy and innocent to the modern corrupt children who were not raised properly. The book more or less contrasts how innocent things used to be rather than the way it is now. Ron Powers did effectively express his opinions with strong cultural criticism in a successful manner. The two murders that had occurred were accepted as the norm for modern day America, although what makes them twisted is the fact that they were committed by children, those who are supposed to bear innocence. What shocked Ron Powers is that it happened in Hannibal, the home town, role model town of America where Tom and Huck grew up, which is supposed to be known for having a comfortable atmosphere and tight bond of community within the peoples of the city, corrupt free. Powers just simply could not accept this change, that the children have changed, which set him off to find out why, what when wrong, successfully doing so.
The youth of America as a whole is losing all the innocence it once had, and nobody is doing a single thing to try and change it.