Carl Grimes is one of the central characters on "The Walking Dead" and is often the center of speculation as comic book fans wonder if the show's creators will develop his character as was done in the comic books. Discussions about the possibility of Carl becoming a emotionless killer or having to grow up too fast can often be heard at comic book stores and conventions. One overlooked aspect is how Carl is essentially an orphan.
The World is Dead.
In the real world, an orphan is a child whose parents have died. In "The Walking Dead," the world that was is now dead. Survivors have figuratively died inside and been reborn into a world where they have to fight for everything. Even though Rick and Lori are still alive, they have both shed the skin they had when the world was normal and become completely different people as Carl's father has become the leader of "his" group of survivors, and Lori has reinvented herself as secondary citizen of Rick's world and delegated herself to doing the work she believes a woman should do.
Rick and Lori have lost the ability to be true parents to Carl. Usually, they deal with issues by saying "Get in the house, Carl." Instead of listening to his parents, the boy tries to get himself intertwined in whatever is going on at the time and attempts to make all of his decisions for himself. It is not that he is necessarily a bad child as much as his decision-making is based on the fact that his parents are no longer capable of dealing with their responsibilities as parents and keep the group alive and thriving at the same time.
The actual definition of an orphan can be used to describe Carl as he is a child who has lost his parents. They have been lost to dealing with other issues beyond the comprehension of someone so young. Just as all of the survivors were pushed into new roles, the younger Grimes was pushed into a role of having to make decisions for himself.
Even though Rick and Lori get on Carl from time to time for getting involved in issues, or causing issues, they encourage his figurative orphaning. When Carl stole Daryl's gun, his father allowed him to keep it for protection. Rick and Lori might order Carl to head to safety, but never check to make sure he has followed their orders. They have given him the room needed to make his own adjustments.
Carl wears his deputy hat as a distinction that he is no longer the child he once was, but is a very small adult in the world where the dead reanimate. The people who were his parents might still be alive, but he lost them a long time ago. He is left to take care of himself in an adult world nobody should ever have to deal with.
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