nip the buds, shoot the kids
by Kenzaburo Oe

A Review by Scott finished Dec. 20, 2008

This review will contain spoilers!

In many sentences:

Nip is a dark, desolate, straightforward book. There is no mystery about what is happening. Though many comparisons might initially be drawn between it and Lord of the Flies, they are less significant than you might originally imagine. In this case, the children do not resort to savages when left alone. Rather, we come to realize it is the adults who have succumb to panic and forgotten their humanity. It is they who leave a sick girl to die, and ignore the pleas for help from the main character when he sneaks out to their new village and presents himself healthy. Also, it is they who in the end are embarrassed by their behavior and attempt to force the children into pretending like nothing happened so when the leaders of the reformatory school arrive, they do not get punished. It is only the narrator"s refusal to accept these lies that results in his banishment from the village and his life on the run. As you can see, the children are far more civilized and respectable here than in Lord of the Flies. In fact, the tone of the book reminds me more of Battle Royale, due to the fact that the children are forced into a despicable situation not by fate, or their own actions, but by adults who give them no other choice than to act savagely. In both cases, however, there are at least some who choose civilized behavior in the end.

The significance of the title comes from the idea that in order to tame a plant, you nip the buds to prevent unwanted or undesirable growth. Misbehaving children, however, are shot to be brought under control. After all, each child has no buds, but when taken as a whole, the entire group can be controlled by nipping the bud of the unruly. It also enhances the idea present throughout the book that adults have no respect for children, and do not cherish their lives as they do the lives of adults. This theme is present throughout the book, and is presented effectively as we share in the frustration and anger of the narrator over the way the adults are treating them.

I enjoyed Nip, in spite of its dark tone. It presented a world in which children are not valued in a stark and disturbing light. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys books that engage these types of themes, and is not afraid of delving into the darker side of humanity.

First Line

"Two of our boys had escaped during the night, so at dawn we still hadn't left."

Kenzaburo Oe the First Line of nip the buds, shoot the kids

Last Line

"I got up, clenching my teeth, and dashed into the deeper darkness between the trees and the darker undergrowth."

Kenzaburo Oe the Last Line of in nip the buds, shoot the kids

Originally Published Jan. 1, 1958

Paperback edition:

189 pages - Jan. 1, 1996

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