Six of Crows, A Wonderful Universe is a weekly mini-series dissecting the world that Leigh Bardugo created in her duology, Six of Crows. I have been breaking down the trauma that each character has experienced over the course of the series. If this is your first post, feel free to start here with Wylan or jump to Kaz, Inej, Jesper, or Nina. This is meant to be read by fans of the series, but spoiler warning for those reading this before enjoying the books.
“Wylan summoned every bit of bravado he’d learned from Nina, the will he’d learned from Matthias, the focus he’d studied in Kaz, the courage he’d learned from Inej, and the wild, reckless hope he’d learned from Jesper, the belief that no matter the odds, somehow they would win. (…) In the end, he was not Nina or Matthias or Kaz or Inej or Jesper. He was just Wylan Van Eck. He told them everything.”
Without a mother, a father who hates him and tries to kill him, and being unable to read, Wylan’s life hasn’t exactly been easy. He is one of the characters whose trauma is well known but who ends up being infantilized by the readers.
Let’s start by analyzing from the beginning. As we know, he grew up in a dysfunctional home.
- Abusive father: Jan Van Eck was a father who used physical, emotional and verbal abuse in his family unit. It should be remembered that he went so far as to have Wylan killed so that he would not affect his own life and/or future.
- Absent mom: Jan Van Eck pretended that his wife got sick and died, making Wylan believe all his life that he had no mother and making him live this way.
- Disabled child: Wylan having dyslexia (although the word is not explicitly used) meant that he needed a lot of patience and love to progress as a child. Jan Van Eck did not give him this.
Growing up within this family dynamic generates enormous damage in the children. Among the patterns prevalent in their family are the following:
As we know, this occurs when Jan Van Eck criticizes Wylan Van Eck but passes it off as an expression of affection or emotional support, leaving him to question his sanity. It also occurs when he insists that the memories he has of events are not the way they happened.
- Jan Van Eck makes Wylan Van Eck feel worse about himself.
- Jan Van Eck plays the victim.
By doing this:
- Wylan Van Eck lived in a constant state of uncertainty.
- It led to him struggling to develop a sense of self and self-confidence.
- He began to seek validation from others.
In Dr. Carol George’s book, “Disorganized Attachment and Caregiving,” she says that refusing to communicate and cooperate leads to developing consequences in children. In the case of Wylan Van Eck:
- Low self-esteem
Within the community of readers who have read and appreciated this duology, the infantilization of Wylan Van Eck because of his disability is widely seen.
It should be remembered that infantilizing a disabled person means treating them as a child. This is a form of ableism that forms part of the social structures in which we live. And yes, although this is just a book character, infantilizing him simply reflects common attitudes towards disabled people in real life. In many cases, readers adopt attitudes and ways of referring to him as a small child, using the words such as “cute” and “baby”.
In the same way, he is limited by not granting him the right to express and experience adult behaviors, experiences and habits. People automatically assume it is right to infantilize in this way because they are considered “naive” and “pure”. People simply censor him, expressing their shock at his young adult behaviors, and expect him to talk, behave or act in a certain way.
Moreover, he continues to be reduced only to his disability. It is important to emphasize that being disabled is only one aspect of the lived human experience and, as actualized human beings, disabled people live as full a life as non-disabled people.
There is no point in infantilizing disabled people. It perpetuates the stigma and clichés surrounding disability. If you treat disabled characters in this way, you are telling others that it is normal and expected that they do the same with real people.
Last brief analysis: He knows he’s wrong and has spent all his time trying to prove himself worthy to everyone around him, but he feels like he’s failing all the time. He doesn’t want to make as many mistakes. He wants others to be proud of him. He just tries to do the best with what he knows. He only wants to protect his loved ones. He doesn’t want to be a burden.