What really bothers me about this stupid little amorality play that we’ve been subjected to is that Lynn clearly doesn’t seem to have understood what her characters were doing for most of it; while she does remember that the whole blasted thing got rolling because Michael wanted to get Elly something really nice for Christmas, most of the rest of what happened seems to have eluded her. The most telling example of what she didn’t see is that Michael didn’t actually display either honesty or strength of character nor was he motivated by the need to do right for its own sake. What had happened was that Michael had convinced himself that every police officer in the world was under express orders to capture or kill the most dangerousest seven-year old supercriminal alive and that the only way to avoid being spending eleventy zillion years in Alcatraz was to sneak the scarf back into the store and hope that nobody noticed. This means that we are meant to define honesty as “trying to pretend that we didn’t do something bad so long as we don’t get caught.” This goes hand in hand with her defining strength of character as not resisting the authority figures that find you out; while I myself think that he would have showed strength of character by not stealing it in the first place, it is the case that declaring that he’d done wrong, wasn’t going to do it again and was willing to take his punishment like a man would have showed more strength than meekly mewling about the end of his life.
As for his being rewarded for what he did, that’s where things really veer away from reality; in the real world, he’d be very lucky that the store didn’t press charges. In Lynn’s world, he’s praised for heroism because he tried to sneak the scarf back as if the staff of the store were imbeciles or something. The only way that this makes any real world sense is to have the salesman who caught him tell his boss that the kid was babbling hysterically about how he wanted to get his mother (who they know as the crazy, belligerent mutant who blathers away while jabbing her finger in the air because a) she’s treated like an ordinary mortal, b) none of the dowdy-looking shmattes she drapes her mottled flanks in can hide the excess ten pounds that don’t exist or c) things cost what they cost) something nice for Christmas and thus to go easy on him. The man’s misdirected pity not only ends up sending the message that other people will be only too glad to allow the Sainted Pattersons leeway to act like swine as long as they fake sincerity, it helps remind us why Mike grows up to be the appalling chunk of sewage we call the Noble Scribe.
This is because he’s learned that people seem to exist to fall at his feet to accommodate his stupidity; if the manager had showed strength of character instead of taking pity on an idiot child with a crazy mother, Michael might have finally learned that there are consequences to his actions as well as that other people have feelings. He doesn’t know the first because of two stupid things that his parents do every day. The first stupid thing is to scream in blind rage when he inconveniences them by acting like a normal child; since everything he does enrages them, he grows up not knowing about cause and effect; the other stupid habit they have of sharing their self-serving philosophy reinforces that tendency by convincing him that he isn’t doing things for the reasons he’s actually doing them. The reason that he never learned that other people’s feelings are as worthy of respect as his own is that he was kept from expressing his own feelings of sadness; since his feelings don’t matter, why should anyone else’s?