Doodle's brother speaks of the "knot of cruelty" that caused him to push, and sometimes abuse, his little brother. I'm remembering the scene when he took Doodle into the barn loft and made him touch the coffin, bullying him and threatening to leave him there where he couldn't get down by himself. This had nothing to do with his program of teaching Doodle how to be "normal." It was just being mean. So, where does this "knot of cruelty" come from? Are all children cruel at times? Only some? Why?
In response to #2: all British children are not like this! The Jamie Bulger incident was definitely an exception rather than the norm, but I think this question does reveal the worrying tendency that children have to be violent and by so doing assert their characters over others. I do agree that unfortunately this is rather a natural state of affairs that some adults never grow out of!
I recall a story about two 9 or 10 year old boys in Britain who lured a 3 year old boy out of a shopping center to the railroad tracks nearby and killed him by throwing stones at the child and smashing in his poor little head.
All children are cruel at times. Children must be taught to be kind and loving. We are all born with sin...with the ability to be kind and gentle or cruel and heartless. All of us have both tendencies. We must be taught to lean toward the good and resist the evil.
Look at The Lord of the Flies for a good example. These were good, civilized, educated boys who went nuts and murdered two of their own simply because they didn't like what Simon (the sensitive and reflective who realized that the boys had evil inside of them) and Piggy (the intellect) symbolized. Ralph (logic and reason) would have also died had he not been rescued at the last moment. Conscience, logic, order, and intellect were on the chopping block...all that remained would have been chaos, evil, hatred, and bloodlust.
I like to recall a billboard in Florida that I saw once. There was a white boy and a black boy, both smiling and hugging one another. The caption said, "No one is born a bigot." In other words, we are taught to hate and dislike one another's differences instead of embracing them. The adults in our communities must be more mindful of what we say, what we teach--both verbally and nonverbally. This is the ONLY way that the future holds a more peaceful, loving existence for all.