Daniel Barker: By Power or Blight Themes
Wanting to feel part of something can put pressure on a teen to act in certain ways. If they’re doing something they wouldn’t normally do, or are not doing something they’d like to do, simply so that they’ll be accepted by the people they hang out with, they’re suffering from peer pressure.
Peer pressure can influence:
* the way someone dresses or wears their hair
* the activities they get involved in the music they listen to
* the decisions made about using drugs and alcohol
* who they date
* who they’re friends with.
The pressure to act in a certain way can be:
1) direct: someone telling the teen what they should be doing
2) indirect: the teen’s group of friends might do certain activities together that they’re unlikely to do outside of that group
3) self-motivated: putting pressure on the teen to fit in with their friendship group, because of certain standards they’ve set or comments they’ve made.
In Daniel Barker: By Power or Blight, peer pressure is a pivotal catalyst for the turn of events in the story. Daniel is a superhero in primary school and the beginning of high school. Things change in Year Eight, and with taunting, bullying and pressure on him, Daniel goes against the rules set down in the Scrivener book. Consequences await him upon disobeying the rules.
The Scrivener book is a present that was given to Daniel’s grandmother by a magus when she was traveling through Egypt. It was then passed down to Daniel’s mother and then to himself.
In Power or Blight there are some references to Egypt with the Mummy’s curse. At the end of the story, Grandma decides that they need to go back to Egypt to stop the blight. It is in the second book that the pyramids, pharoahs, mummies and the ancient Egyptian world is explored.
Some fun facts about ancient Egypt:
1) Egyptian men and women wore makeup. It was thought to have healing powers, plus it helped protect their skin from the sun.
2) They used mouldy bread to help with infections.
3) They were one of the first civilizations to invent writing. They also used ink to write and paper called papyrus.
4) The Ancient Egyptians were scientists and mathematicians. They had numerous inventions including ways to build buildings, medicine, cosmetics, the calendar, the plow for farming, musical instruments, and even toothpaste.
5) Ancient Egypt plays a major role in the Bible. The Israelites were held captive there as slaves for many years. Moses helped them escape and led them to the Promised Land.
6) The Pharaoh kept his hair covered. It was not to be seen by regular people.
7) Cats were considered sacred in Ancient Egypt.
As with most of my books, bullying is featured in By Power or Blight. Daniel is called names and taunted, until he explodes.
Bullying goes hand-in-hand with negative peer pressure.
So what is bullying?
The national definition of bullying for Australian schools says:
Bullying is an ongoing misuse of power in relationships through repeated verbal, physical and/or social behaviour that causes physical and/or psychological harm. It can involve an individual or a group misusing their power over one or more persons. Bullying can happen in person or online, and it can be obvious (overt) or hidden (covert).
Bullying of any form or for any reason can have long-term effects on those involved, including bystanders.
Single incidents and conflict or fights between equals, whether in person or online, are not defined as bullying.
In the story, Daniel is bullied because he is picked on by many children; some like Ethan and his mate have it in for him. Daniel is physically and verbally picked on. After things start going bad, he becomes isolated from his friends.
In By Power or Blight, the school does not action to stop the bullying – this is all part of the Mummy’s Blight. But in reality there are policies and procedures that schools need to follow.
These strategies could include:
• teaching and learning programs to develop students communication, social, assertiveness and coping skills
• changes to the school environment to improve teacher supervision, such as removing visual barriers between teacher and students
• increasing supervision of students at particular times or places
• support from a guidance officer or school counsellor
• changes to technology access at school
• timetable or class changes that may be temporary or permanent to decrease the contact the students have with each other
• class discussions of bullying including underlying issues and possible responses for students
• promoting positive bystander behaviour
• disciplinary action against students who bully others
An action plan may be developed for the child and any other children involved. Strategies for use at home may also be included in a plan.
Daniel Barker lives with his mother, his father having left when he was a baby. Mrs Barker still carries some resentment towards her husband and expresses in the story that she doesn’t want her son to become like him.
Mrs Barker has the help of Daniel’s grandmother, who he is close to. Daniel often rings his grandmother to ask her advice, and they have a good relationship. She helps him many times throughout By Power or Blight.
This theme was chosen as over the past 20 years single-parent families have become even more common than the so-called “nuclear family” consisting of a mother, father and children. Today we see all sorts of single- parent families: headed by mothers, headed by fathers, headed by a grandparent raising their grandchildren.
Life in a single-parent household — though common — can be quite stressful for the adult and the children. Members may unrealistically expect that the family can function like a two-parent family, and may feel that something is wrong when it can not. The single parent may feel overwhelmed by the responsibility of juggling caring for the children, maintaining a job and keeping up with the bills and household chores. And typically, the family’s finances and resources are drastically reduced following the parents’ breakup.
Single-parent families deal with many other pressures and potential problem areas that the nuclear family does not have to face.
Stressors faced by single parent families include:
* Visitation and custody problems.
• The effects of continuing conflict between the parents.
• Less opportunity for parents and children to spend time together.
• Effects of the breakup on children’s school performance and peer relations.
• Disruptions of extended family relationships.
• Problems caused by the parents’ dating and entering new relationships.
Difference & Diversity
We all want children to grow up in a world free from bias and discrimination, to reach for their dreams and feel that whatever they want to accomplish in life is possible. We want them to feel loved and included and never to experience the pain of rejection or exclusion. But the reality is that we do live in a world in which racism and other forms of bias continue to affect us. Discrimination hurts and leaves scars that can last a lifetime, affecting goals, ambitions, life choices, and feelings of self-worth.
Even though in Power or Blight, Daniel is a typical boy, as stated in the Introduction, the gift of his Scrivener power changes things. It makes him different. When I wrote the story I thought an equivalent example for today may be a child’s family winning the lottery, or a child acquiring a physical disability – something that had a dramatic change – something that may be accepted for a while, but then not so much.
Having the theme of difference and diversity in Daniel Barker encourages discussions. It goes a step towards children thinking about how they can show respect for others who are different from themselves, and the language they speak.