The Feral Child

The Feral Child is an object of fascination for many theorists.  The very idea of one raises speculations about what the human being apart from  civilization would be like.  But the actuality can be horrible, tragic, sickening.

Florida’s St. Petersburg Times recently published a long story on a child who seems to have had little social contact for the first five or six years of her life.  This is a very difficult story to read, and even some actions of the remarkable people who have provided her with a home may raise questions in some minds.  From her closet full of fluffy dresses and her Miss Kitty accoutrements to the couple’s other child, who has had serious sacrifices asked or imposed on him to accommodate her, the ending we see may contain signs of other problems.  And it is also the case that we have little idea how she will develop. 

More background information, a slide show, audio interviews can be found here.

9 thoughts on “The Feral Child

  1. Feminist philosophers who are interested in the ‘place’ of feral children in philosophical work might like to look the tragic case of Genie, who was found in Los Angeles in 1970 (I believe). Her use of language has attracted some philosophical and psychological interest. Lila Gleitman, who just finished her term as president of the Society for Philosophy and Psychology, has an interesting paper on children and language development that considers the case of feral children, among many others. It’s at:

    Click to access gleitman_newport.pdf

  2. This is MADDENING!
    First what gives an overindulged reporter the right to call the little girl a creature!!!!
    Secondly lets whip out a little of Sarah Hoaglands relationality, along with some REALITY. Go to any set of projects in the US, if you dont find at least 5 kids exactly like that Ill hand over my years earning and return to the projects myself. Using relationality one can easily see that poverty of that kind could not exist without having been purposefully and carefully constructed by those who think they deserve too much. The mother could easily have cleaned if anyone ever taught her to, i am not sticking up for her at all, if anyone wants kids then they have to give up their own needs such as food, like my mother did for me. BUT there will be roaches everywhere no matter how many times you bleach the house a day, that is how people in poverty are forced to live, there will be broen windows, slumlords dont fix things. They also didnt say if the schools ther require uniforms, there have been many cases where kids could not go to the socalled mandatory schooling for lack of extra mon ey for unneeded clothes.
    That social worker doesnt deserve to cry, where was she all that kids life, seriously they need to start getting criminal charges, they let anything go on then want to whine about it. They dont care, their jobs are constructed around the needs they have constructed for others, they need to feel bad. Same goes for the cops, where were they for 7 years, i imagine eating well and being overindulged, not caring at all. All of a sudden they want to care, come on, who is up for election that they care after 7 years go by.
    There is good literature about this written by those who grew up in poverty. In Mary Childers autobiography she tells of going to stay with the rich summer people and gives a good account of how ashamed she was of nbot kknowing how to pick out a doll at the store, kids like us dont kn ow about toys, we are worried about how to get food.
    And fin ally why is it a prob lem that the overindulged id has to supposedly give something up i am sure he still has much more than he needs, kids living the way he got to live are the reason all the other kids suffer.
    And those people who are getting so much attention for doing what everyone should have done to begin with dont deserve it! You shouldnt get a badge of honor for all of a sudden growing a conscience!!! Note that they still have TOO MUCH while others STARVE. But then such is capitalism, they will get rewarded for taking one in while still actively forcing others to go without. And it was all in Fl where the overindulged go to hide their oversenesitive skin from the cold they force others to live in with no heat, that says it all.

  3. Is this the sentence you object to, ILF:
    “The authorities had discovered the rarest and most pitiable of creatures: a feral child.”
    I read “creatures” here as a generalizing term, not a demeaning one. On my reading it is saying something like “of all the creatures in the world, one of the rarest and most pitiable is the feral child.”

    I think it’s really unclear what the basis for their diagnosis is, but whoever is coming up with the descriptions seems to think she has “environmental autism.” It isn’t that she didn’t know how to pick out a doll; she didn’t know how to walk or say any word or express any emotion or, indeed, focus on anything. It is plausible to think that a human infant deprived of just about all contact would end up like that.

    I know of reasonably wealthy people who have brutalized and terrorized their children, men who have raped their sons repeatedly, and so on. I think that to see the present case in psychological terms is very partial, for reasons you advance. But I’m not sure that to see it simply as a product of capitalism is going to advance our understanding of the specific case all that much. As the Steinberg-Nussbaum case in NYC made us aware, well-off well-educated people can be disgustingly awful to young children and even kill them and the system of supposed surveillance lets it happen.

    It’s also the case that families that take in children from such situations can place themselves at great risk, and what they are doing takes an enormous amount of hard work. We praise people who go to extra lengths to take care of unusually demanding situations in their own families, and this family is actually doing that for a stranger. That the older child has to go to bed in a place he’s afraid of seems a worrying feature of the story. Money seldom protects kids from psychological harm, as I’m sure you know.

    So perhaps I’m not getting your point.

  4. JJ
    You made my point exactly! It is the rich capitalists who are doing this to every deprived child on a daily basis. They do it to others as a lifestlye, of course they would do it to their own as well, it just isnt as often, they create poverty everyday so they are killing everyday.
    I know that this child has more problems than not understanding toys, what I was saying is that it happens alot to all kids who have to live like that, i was showing that an amzingly intelligent writer had a similar circumstance.
    All kids forced to live in ghettos have to go to bed in scary places every night if they have a bed to go to, i dont see why it is only a problem when it is this rich kid, he is no better than the kids in my family who HAVE to sleep where there are murders regularly every night of their lives, so he is having a real life experience for the 1st time at what age, in perspective he is just sampling what his lifestyle causes.
    Those are the same families who are the cause of ALL of those kinds of circumstances, it is b ecause of those overindulged that kids like my 15 year old cousin get murdered in the street they are forced to walk down at night after work, so why is it only a problem when the overindulged are in danger, they intentionally make things dangerous for everyone else, one family is being accountable for all of the death and horror caused by the overindulged, that doesnt seem to me to merit more special treatment than they already get, it seems more like the case when rich white women write books about the way they intentionally harm other races with their skin and their money, the keep harming b ut yet everyone feels bad for THEM, what a racket!
    Also what if in an article i called a middle class person a creature instead of a person, they would be all over me more than they already are, well maybe, it might be too much actual work lol

  5. Just a quick clarification
    I dont want to see anyone in danger or any kids having to be scared to go to bed, it is just hundreds of thousands of kids, elderly, and adults are forced to be afraid and in danger continually, with no time off from it, every day of their lives, with no choices and noone ever cares until it is someone who has been overindulged for most of their lives. Noone but a very few of us are writing articles about the ones who live like that from the cradle to the grave so it just really gets to me when someone who has had more than they need, and that greediness has resulted in the way the rest of us live, has to live like everyone else for a hot second and everyone thinks it is so horrid. What about what that little girl has had to live through, what do you think they did to her at night, yeah way more to be scared of than some kid with too much in his tyoo nice has to be and thats for sure.
    In a tolerable world noone would ever be in danger or be scared but we dont live in a tolerable world we live in this one unfortunately

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