What I found to be the most fascinating/disturbing about "The Wild Boy" was the similarity to the relationship between Koko the gorilla and her trainer. Victor's caretaker argues with the doctor who claims that Victor is lower than an animal. And yet he does not even give the boy a name until weeks have gone by, his ways of 'teaching' them are really only teaching him to memorize and mimic signs, and he locks him in the closet. Is that how humans are treated? I also thought it seemed unfair to take the boy outdoors so that he got a teasing taste of freedom before he was shut indoors and worked to the point of exhaustion every day. The same treatment was used on Koko.Besides the obvious physicality, there was not a lot to distinguish Victor from an animal except in the way that he was treated. He was given clothes and a name, but he still could not get rid of his 'animal' instincts.
The Wild Boy of Aveyron shows the difficulties, frustrations, and progression of a nonhuman human. Victor's animal and civilized components are at a constant war in a way similar to the human animals, or animals who indicate intelligences shared by humans, when such beings are subjected to experiments of humanization. Itard describes his work with Victor in a way that provokes the questioning of experiments designed to civilize or to bring other beings into a society not originally their own. He recognizes that his subject was an "unhappy creature", in between two distinct worlds, who could never be a functioning person in human society, and although Itard was often questioning his work, continued to draw out Victor's intellectual potentials because the wild boy showed his capacity for development. Through experiments Victor showed that his "knowledge no longer belonged to the domain of the external senses and therefore came within the scope of the mental faculties... "this knowledge fell finally within the domain of the faculties of the mind" which proved his ability to be socialized, however limited. Victor's behavior showed that he shared the qualities of man; he exhibited guilt, injustice, attachment, among other emotions, and gestures employed to communicate. Intard's experiments with Victor shows how the individual is constructed through socialization, but it also shows how the inadequacies of this approach when dealt with beings outside of normative social surroundings, such as the experiments done with Koko. These cases demonstrate that when people use human like beings in extreme situations against their natures as a way to become more human, there are always similar successes and similar failures. More often than not, it appropriates nothing good for who is being experimented upon, but fascinates the others.
What I found so interesting about Wild Boy was the conscious thought from the educator regarding whether civilizing Viktor was truly beneficial or not for him. It is a jerk reaction to see an unclothed human child, not equipped by the dominant fine fashions but with dirt and grime, and to feel sorry for him/her. His realization that this may not be the best thing for him was a turning point in the film, after all his work, effort, and observation he began to question the point of Viktor’s assimilation. We are born into the rules and expectations of society, enforcing our values on others is more is not very civil.
The Wild Boy of Aveyron appeared in the midst of the French Revolution, a time of radical change in social and political thought. Most intellectuals and scientists who encountered the Wild Boy/Victor assumed any intellectual progress impossible. Except, of course, Jean Itard who experimented and observed Victor over the course of four years and essentially developed the foundation for an alternative education movement. As indicated in the reading, educational and psychological knowledge in the late 18th century was lacking and most intellectuals believed retardation to be “innate and acquired” (79). Itard’s recognition of the close relationship between the five senses and thought-intelligence capacity are evident in the Wild Boy’s emotional and physical development. The use of the word “animal” by Itard suggests an association with subhuman or low level of intelligence, which is also the case with several other readings. Itard characterizes Wild Boy’s existence as “purely animal” (98) and at one point describes his as an “unhappy creature” (157). Itard’s attempt to “civilize” Victor resulted in a development of emotions and the utilization of his senses, particularly his sense of taste (110). Although Victor was mute, he was able to use gestures to communicate (127) with is interestingly similar to Koko’s range of abilities. And although Victor’s relationships were primarily utilitarian, Itard’s findings disproved previous theories claiming afflictions incurable and thereby limit the individuals’ social and educational capacity (99). Itard’s findings express a type of social uniformity of human experience. Itard’s recognizes man’s “natural” superiority as a result of civilization and that “man is inferior to a great number of animals in a pure state if nature” (138).
There was a question raised about whether or not Victor was inherently an "idiot" or if he was just underdeveloped because of his isolation beginning at a young age. I think it seemed perfectly obvious, even before any advancements in Victor's social and sensory capacity, that he was a product of his environment rather than some sort of anomaly from birth. I think he stands as a further example of how we are all products of a our culture and how incredibly influential one's environment really is. It baffles me that a child of 3 years could be so capable of survival in total isolation in the woods of all things! He is an example of human resilience, independence and adaptability and it's totally fascinating.
The study of Victor makes a rather compelling case for Von Uexkull's "umwelt theory," and significantly extends the scope of an individual's subjective creation of their own world. Even Victor's senses operate differently than we think a human's "naturally" do, as he is unable to discriminate tastes, but smells everything he comes across. Itard even mentions that he gains pleasure from some smells, which can be as mundane as a rock or a piece of grass. Itard seems to equate this to Victor's reminiscences of his happier, wild life, but perhaps it is simply a sense that Victor has learned to use to decode the world. It makes me wonder, if human society had developed differently, whether great smells could be appreciated by all. As Victor begins to learn, we gain great insight into the human tendency to force categories upon objects, something that has turned up in nearly all of readings so far, and is possibly the greatest source of our confusion w/r/t our relationship to other animals. Learning to use the word "knife" to indicate the object-knife, Victor at first confuses the idea and the particular, believing "knife" to indicate only that individual knife. When Itard notices and attempts to correct the mistake, Victor still does not realize the nature of his mistake, instead "considers thing from the point of view of their similarity or common properties, concluding that since many objects enjoyed a resemblance of shape they must have in certain circumstances an identity of use and function" (160). A broom becomes a brush, a razor becomes a knife. I am reminded by Von Uexkull's portrait of a room, identified differently by different animals due to the functions of the objects they perceive.Others have noted the similarities between Victor and Koko. I would relate Victor to the renegade elephants raised outside of society. Both belong to a species of social creatures, unable to develop autonomously. Both are barred from their respective societies, and are recognized as even lower than a typical animal. Again, the importance of socialization in the development of highly advanced mental cognition is apparent.