Tuesday, April 7, 2009

About A Boy

The novel I have selected for this exploration study assignment is About A Boy by Nick Hornby. There are several complex characters in this novel worthy character exploration. As I was most fascinated by the character development of Marcus throughout the novel, I have chosen to further explore his character. My exploration will focus on the influence Fiona, Will and Ellie have had on Marcus’ character development.

At the beginning of this novel Marcus is portrayed as a misfit with very low self-esteem, and lacking in self-confidence. Marcus considers himself to be weird because his mother Fiona is weird. Although Marcus argues with Fiona when he has a difference of opinion, he loses every argument. As Fiona is a “hippie” from the seventies she insists that Marcus has long shiny hair, and that he wears clothing that is out of style. Marcus is deprived by his mother from listening to current popular music, and is forced to listen to Joni Mitchell. Since Fiona is a vegetarian Marcus must likewise be a vegetarian. Marcus sings for his mother to make her happy, but occasionally forgets himself and sings out loud in public places such as his classroom. It is evident that the influence Fiona is having on Marcus is causing him to be ridiculed and taunted by his peers at school. Marcus has a very difficult time making friends in his new school, as would be friends also get targeted for similar treatment. Prier to meeting Will, Fiona is the only meaningful person in Marcus’ life. His love for his mother, his fear of losing her, and his desire for making her happy are more important to Marcus, than his own well being. Two traumatic events occur on the day that Marcus first meets Will, which profoundly influence his character development. When Marcus accidentally kills a duck at the park, Will comes to his rescue and deliberately lies to the attendant in order to protect Marcus. Marcus is very disturbed by this event but is very impressed by the fact that Will protected him. When Marcus returns from the park with Will and Suzzie he finds his mother unconscious from a deliberate overdose of pills. Fiona recovers from the suicide attempt but Marcus unfortunately stumbles on her suicide note prior to her return from the hospital. The attempted suicide and reading the suicide note have a devastating effect on Marcus’ character. The fear of losing his mother to the suicide haunts Marcus throughout the novel. He especially worries about Fiona when she is acting depressed or is alone at home.
Marcus arranges for Will to take his mother and him out for dinner with the hope that Will and Fiona will develop a relationship. He rationalizes that Will might make his mother happy, and if his mother is happy she will not commit suicide. It soon becomes obvious to Marcus that Will has no romantic interest in Fiona. A major turning point in Marcus’ character development occurs when he decides to befriend Will. He finally makes a decision exclusively for his own benefit.

Marcus shows great determination in pursuing his friendship with Will. He follows Will home from a shopping centre to determine where he lives. From his very visit to Will’s flat, Marcus exhibits great self-confidence. He has no qualms when he accuses Will of not having a child. Marcus and Will soon develop a close relationship that enriches both of their characters.
Will has a remarkable positive effect on Marcus’ character development. 0n one occasion Will chases away several teenagers that are victimizing Marcus at Will’s door. Because of this incident Marcus finally tells Will of his horrible experience at school, as well as his personal concerns. Will teaches Marcus the importance of becoming “invisible” by “fitting in.” Marcus learns from Will that Joni Mitchell is no longer popular, and that Nirvana is “cool.” Will also teaches Marcus the importance of fashion and appropriate hairstyle, and buys Marcus a new pair of sneakers. By having Will as a friend, Marcus now has someone to help him with his concerns. Will also teaches Marcus the importance of assertiveness, and independent thinking. This becomes evident when Marcus challenges his mother on why he must be a vegetarian. When Marcus confesses to his mother that the sneakers, which were stolen from him, had been purchased by Will she learns the truth of his relationship with Will. Marcus is assertive in defending Will and tells his mother that Will understands him better than she does. Marcus finally wins an argument with Fiona when he tells her that he needs a father. Despite his mothers concerns Marcus continues to visit Will.

When Marcus is called into Mrs. Morrison’s office in regard to the stolen sneakers, she advises him “I mean I’m sure you’ve thought of this, but couldn’t you just try keeping out of the way?” Marcus replies, “I’m finished with you” and walks out of the office. When Mr. Patel gives Marcus the same advice earlier in the novel Marcus listens passively. Marcus is now a stronger person, and is no longer willing to take the blame for the abusive actions of others.
When Will spends Christmas with Fiona and Marcus, he encounters a rude reception from Suzzie. As Will is about to leave Marcus proclaims that Will is his friend, and he wants him to stay. Marcus trivializes Will’s previous indiscretions by stating “All he did was make up a kid for a couple of weeks.” Marcus shows great maturity when he feigns enthusiasm while he opens up the “boring” gifts his mother gave him.

Marcus demonstrates his loyalty to Will when he agrees to pretend to be Will’s son in order for Will to impress Rachel. He realizes this is a bad idea, but he cannot refuse his best friend’s request. Will has a negative impact on Marcus’ character development. At Rachel’s place Marcus is verbally assaulted by Rachel’s son Ali. Marcus shows excellent judgment by walking away from Ali and not participating in the lunacy.

Marcus first meets Ellie outside of Mrs. Morrisons’ office. Although Ellie is rude to Marcus she warms up to him quickly and soon becomes his friend. Ellie is a very rebellious girl who bullies and intimidates people to have her way. She is also a huge fan of Kurt Cobain. Marcus feels a new sense of confidence when he is with Ellie as children are afraid to harass him.

On the day that Kurt Cobain attempts suicide Marcus is reminded of his mother’s suicide attempt and begins to cry in Ellie’s presence. It is evident how the fear of his mother committing suicide continues to worry him.

Although Ellie is constantly getting into trouble, Marcus can initially only see her positive attributes. Marcus shows disrespect for his mother when he invites Ellie to travel with him to visit his father. Upon learning of Kurt Cobain’s death, Ellie goes hysterical, becomes drunk, and smashes the window of a music store. Although Marcus is three years younger than Ellie he demonstrates great maturity in trying to console Ellie, and attempts to stop her from drinking. When Ellie commits vandalism, Marcus stays near her and does not consider running away. Once again his loyalty to a friend is witnessed. At the police station Marcus vents his anger by telling Lindsey to shut up and letting his father what a useless father he is. The rudeness of his comments maybe attributed to the negative effect Ellie has had on Marcus’ father.

Marcus comes to the realization that Ellie is a dangerous person to associate with away from school, and is not right for him as a girlfriend. Ellie’s behaviour did not matter much in school because “school was full of walls and rules, and she could bounce off them, but out in the world where there was no walls and rules she was crazy. She could blow up in his face anytime.”

At the conclusion of this novel Marcus’ character has been completely transformed. Marcus’ haircuts and his style of dressing become like everyone else, and he is more circumspect when he speaks. Marcus credits his friendships with Will and Ellie for helping him carry the “loads of life.” He compares these friendships to a human pyramid, “It doesn’t really matter who they are, does it, as long as they’re there and you don’t let them get away without finding someone else.” Marcus often stated, “two is not enough.” Through their new friendships both Marcus and Fiona appear to be well adjusted for the moment.

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