Suffer the Little Children

Caution: contains spoilers.

The slow transformation of Carl’s character has been both disturbing and profound. At the beginning of the series, he is innocent, scared, and dependent upon the adults around him for reassurance and stability. When he is shot by Otis, his parents keep a nearly constant vigil by his side. Although we still see just an innocent child lying in the farmhouse bed, the seeds of change have already begun to germinate within him.

His desire to carry a gun is our first indication of his character’s shift. His first lone encounter with a “walker,” one trapped temporarily in the bog, shows the frailty that still remains. He begins by childishly taunting it, taking aim, but holding back from firing. When it frees itself, he panics, finding himself unable to shoot. He instead flees, and shortly thereafter learns his actions have resulted in the death of one of their own, Dale. It is obvious that a part of him dies with Dale, and when he comes across the newly arisen Shane advancing upon his father, he both claims a piece of redemption and loses yet another piece of his innocence in the act of shooting Shane’s zombie.

In the prison, Carl’s transformation becomes complete. Faced with his mothers agonizing death, he flashes back to the pep talk his father had with him before they left the farm, one in which Rick tells him candidly that death is now a part of life and he must step up to the plate when the need comes. He insists on shooting his own mother to spare her from rising as a zombie, and he does so with composure one could never expect to see in a child his age. But he’s no longer a child, even though he is far from being a man; what he has become borders a razor’s edge between respectable and heartbreaking. This becomes even more poignant when newcomers arrive at the prison, one of them seriously wounded by a walker, and he offers to shoot her before she turns—but also before she has died.

Lori’s fears during her ill-fated pregnancy have proven all too true: Carl has all but forgotten the child he had just so recently enjoyed being, and Judith, the daughter Lori dies giving birth to, will only know struggle, starvation, and death, should she even survive infancy. What will become of both of them? Those of us who have read far enough into the graphic novel likely have a decent idea of what the immediate future holds. Beyond that, one can only shudder at the long-term possibilities.

Leigh M. Lane is a speculative fiction author whose works span from sci-fi to horror. Her most recent full-length works are The Hidden Valley Horror, Finding Poe, World-Mart, and Myths of Gods. For more about her work, go to her website at http://www.cerebralwriter.com.

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