The Wild Boy and the Mirror Stage

In my French class, we watched a movie called “The Wild Child” based on a true story about a twelve year-old boy who was found in the woods of France at the beginning of the nineteenth century.  He has been abandoned as a toddler, and has found a way to survive by himself.  He has been living essentially as an animal, completely isolated from human contact and unable to speak.  He is captured and brought to the institute for blind and deaf people in Paris, where a doctor attempts to “educate” or “civilize” him.  When he is first brought to Paris, the doctor places him in front of a mirror and stands behind him holding an apple.  He moves the apple back and forth as the child frantically bangs his hand against the mirror, trying to grab it.  After a few minutes, the child figures out the trick and reaches behind him and successfully grabs the apple.  It is so cool to actually see the mirror stage in action.  The child has never been in contact with a mirror before, and has no idea of self outside of the basic needs he fulfills to stay alive.  Throughout the film, the doctor works on giving the boy new needs and developing his concept of images as representing objects, so that the boy can form an identity beyond the purely animal.  So much of being human is being able to understand the idea of representation.  The first step is looking in the mirror and realizing that the image reflected back at us is a representation of ourselves as we appear to the rest of the world.  After seeing himself in the mirror, the boy becomes more and more human.  He sees that his actions have an effect on others, and that he must learn by imitating other people.  His reflection in the mirror becomes the door that he enters into society.

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