IN MY SOPHOMORE ENGLISH CLASS, I took social witticism as my special study. But first I needed to learn how to be witty or funny, I needed to learn how language worked. That year we read Animal Farm by George Orwell, which is still my favorite book. Mrs. Kort, my teacher was aging and forgetful. We would jest that she was getting dementia.

After all, she lost her room keys at the end of every class, looking totally baffled and distressed. I used her apparent memory loss to my advantage. When her back was turned or she was too focused on one thing to pay attention to my behavior, I used selectively misbehaved and diverted the class’s attention to my own affairs and for my own purposes.

So, I took what I knew about language and people and, after reading Orwell’s great allegory I began to understand social graces and human behavior. While Orwell’s story was simple, as human behavior seems to be on the surface, it is nuanced, complex, and layered.

This is the lesson I was finally beginning to put together. How do people behave, why do they behave the way they do, and where do I see myself as a student and perhaps, one day, the larger society. When Boxer, the great workhorse of Animal Farm, was sold to the glue factory after injuring himself, I took this passage very seriously.

I vowed never to be a victim of my own shortsightedness or anyone’s else’s ill will. Instead, I pulled a one eighty and slowly became the bully I vowed would never do me harm.

Peters, J.. Wales Middle School: The Rise of J.Peters (p. 20). AuthorHouse. Kindle Edition.

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