Growing up with the Wimpy Kid

An account of how Jeff Kinney’s book series created simple literature for a new generation of young readers.

‘But if she thinks I’m going to write down my “feelings” in here or whatever, she’s crazy. So just don’t expect me to be all “Dear Diary” this and “Dear Diary” that.’ These are a few words from the first page of the 2007 bestseller and the first entry in one of the most unique franchises, The Diary of a Wimpy Kid. The book and its subsequent sequels might look like plain old kids’ books that are sold in the Scholastic book stands during school Parent-Teacher Meetings, but it is more than that. Wikipedia aptly classifies Wimpy Kid as a ‘satirical realistic fiction comedy’.
It is not just about the life of a certain Greg Heffley trying to grow up in a pre-teen world; it is also a tale of how everyone around him gets affected and themselves grow with time along with Greg. This emphasises how in a human society, our actions knowingly and unknowingly tend to affect one another. Written in a simple manner, and drawn in a simpler manner, the essence of the whole series lies in simplicity. Author Jeff Kinney takes up random observations in the life of a modern urban middle class family, and exaggerates it with some straight elegant satire (which is made even better with the scribbled drawings). Kinney writes about male showers in water parks being the grossest things in mankind, and the stark differences in luxury between economy and executive class flights using leg room as a parameter amongst many other hilarious observations.
However, let’s not forget that the soul of the books still comes from the high school going titular character, Greg. As he grows up (and has been growing up in twelve more books), he encounters changes that even we as transient school and college students can relate to. Greg is a slightly ‘introvert-ish’ wimp who prefers playing video games rather than doing anything else. Yet he, like many other students, craves the attention of everyone, wants to date the prettiest girl, and wants to be a famous star when he grows up. These are common desires that we all would wish for on every passing shooting star. His best friend Rowley is a simpleton who sticks with him mostly, but there are times when he may give his attention to a girl or some other friend, and to this, Greg feels left out and mellow. As times change, friends also change. This is one thing which we all deal with at some point of our student life or the other.
Apart from school, Greg has real world relatable problems in his house as well. His parents might get overprotective or a bit too affectionate at times, not understanding what their child wants in this process. If you have ever had any conflict with an older or younger sibling, Greg will be your spirit animal as he has to deal with his self-obsessed dumb older brother, Rodrick, who pulls pranks on him, along with handling the alligator toothed toddler brother Manny, who can do everything from urinating in the swimming pool, to befriending a pig. Everyone in the series seems dumb and foolish in their own different ways. Maybe, that is an indirect dig at humanity itself. No matter how smart or bold we may act on the outside, we might just be dumb and wimpy on the inside. The key is to embrace our true selves and get amused at every stage in life, and if you wish to capitalise on it, then maybe just start writing a diary and publish it.

Feature Image Credits: Chronicles Network

Shaurya Thapa

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