Personal Responsibility

Like most of Myers’s other young adult novels, Lockdown tells the tale of a young man growing up in a harsh environment. However, the author never allows his protagonists like Reese to excuse their choices because of their backgrounds. Myers uses Mr. Cintron’s character to show Reese that even when friends such as Toon are struggling, Reese must consider his own future first. This tough love approach seems selfish to Reese at first, but he soon realizes that he is the only one who can change the direction of his life and that Toon is the only one who can change his own behavior in order to be released from Progress. Near the end of the novel, as Reese rides back to Progress, Mr. Pugh, one of Progress’s guards, he tells Reese that his daddy always told him:

that the snake that’s gonna kill you is probably wearing your damned shirt.

At first, Reese does not understand Mr. Pugh’s proverb, but then he realizes that he can only blame himself if his life continues to be “messed up.”


Throughout his time in Progress, Reese struggles to figure out who he is and what his purpose is. He hates Mr. Hooft’s racist, condescending comments, but he becomes aware that he is living up to the stereotype that Mr. Hooft has of young men like him. As Reese gets to know Mr. Hooft better, he observes that Mr. Hooft has created his own idealistic identity for himself. Mr. Hooft’s version of his life after he was freed from the prison camp includes prestigious jobs and a fawning family and group of friends, but this version is entirely made up. Mr. Hooft is like Reese—they are both prisoners looking to make their “escape” to a happier world. The older man forces Reese to realize that when humans suffer through harsh times such as Hooft’s imprisonment by the Japanese, they can stop knowing who they...

(The entire section is 622 words.)