Oz Griffin is a bully, but does that make him a bad kid?

“The moral of the story” is not my favorite topic.  I think way too much is read into why a character did this, or why a plot went that way.   My experience as a writer has been that the actions of characters and the direction of plot have more to do with driving the story than they do driving a hidden agenda by the author.  In fact, the few times I have intentionally tried to sprinkle morality into my stories I have failed miserably.  It felt as if I was force feeding the reader.

That being said, given the current rash of cyber bullying and the resulting suicides, I feel like I should talk about the “hidden” message in The Oz Chronicles.  Understand, I didn’t write the story with the messages in mind.  Like any reader, I discovered them after reading the completed story.  You may have found (or will find) an entirely different interpretation and that’s perfectly acceptable.  The story is only mine in the writing.  After that, it belongs to the reader.

For those of you who haven’t read any of the books, the series is about a boy who discovers that he is responsible for the end of the world, and he is determined to bring it back.  Each book is a new adventure in his journey.  The main characters name is Oz Griffin, hence the title for the series, The Oz Chronicles.  In literary terms, Oz is the protagonist or hero.  But, he is also the villain.

How did Oz cause the end of the world?  He was a bully who picked on a boy who had Down syndrome.  The boys name is Stevie Dayton, and he eventually commits suicide. Stevie had been trained by a therapist to bring the monsters in his mind called the Takers to life and make those who teased and tortured him pay for their cruelty. But Stevie was too kind hearted to unleash the monsters, and he held them in until he died.  Once he was dead, they destroyed the world taking everyone but a few survivors.  Oz is among the survivors and not by accident.  Stevie wanted him to survive, not to make him suffer, but to save the world.  You see, despite all the cruel things Oz did to him, Stevie saw the goodness in Oz.  He saw the “magic” in him, and he wanted to help Oz find it.

Here is what I get from the story:

1. Oz is not a bad kid.  He’s a good kid who’s done bad things. The best heroes are flawed.  They are not perfect.  Part of their journey is overcoming their flaws and succeeding.  Oz must find the magic within himself in order to bring the world back.

2. Stevie possessed the greatest power of them all, the power of forgiveness.  He never lost sight of who Oz really was, and even in death, he was determined to help Oz find his path.

3. As hard as it is to understand at the time, tragedy can be a great gift.  It is an opportunity for you to discover things about yourself and your loved ones that otherwise would have remained hidden.  One should never look for tragedy, but when you’re faced with it, you should embrace it, take your responsibility in it, and take on the challenge to overcome it.

4. There are consequences in everything we do. Sometimes far greater than we ever thought possible.  In Oz’s case, his cruelty caused Stevie to take his own life.  That act caused an even larger catastrophe, the end of the world.  Those insignificant acts of bad behavior we think mean nothing, can have devastating effects.   You may not cause the end of the world, but you could alter your life in ways that will cause you untold loss and misery.

5. Tolerance is the noblest state of being.  To accept someone and be kind to them despite their differences is the only true way to honor the life you’ve been given.

I’m not naïve enough to think that all bullies are good kids who just made bad choices.  Sometimes people are just rotten, and they get a kick out of causing destruction.  I do believe, however, that most the cases of bullying today are committed by decent kids who just don’t understand what they are doing.  We, as a society, have to take some of the blame for their actions.  They see adults threatening to burn a religious book because it represents a different point of view.  They see adults spewing intolerance toward a group because of their sexual orientation.  They see adults vilify a group because they have more money.  They see adults marginalize a group because they don’t have money.   In short, they see adults not honoring the life they’ve been given.  How can we blame them for acting like most of the adults in our society?

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