A story of an outsider in a different world, Neil is a teenage boy with troubles in a society where he is excluded. Bothered by psoriasis, his red, flaky skin often prevented him from doing activities he would have otherwise loved to join in. In this story the author writes about the divided class systems, the inability to fit into society, overcoming fears, and allowing others to understand.
In the story, the author describes Neil as self-conscious, easily influenced and an outsider. At the beginning of the story, his mother’s voice is often in his head. She tells him what to do, how to do it, and completely controls him. She is very ordered, and so is Neil. The fact that Neil’s pyjamas were ironed and neatly folded at the start of the story already tells us the kind of person Neil is. He isn’t comfortable living with the Middletons, in their extravagant holiday house.
The fact that he is on a scholarship suggests that his family may be financially troubled, so he lives a simple, ordered, life. At one stage the author describes a beautiful beach scene, but fails to put Neil in the picture. It shows that there is a beautiful scene, and Neil is an outsider, so he isn’t a part of it. When Michael goes off to play cricket with his friends, Neil tells the reader how he also has a cricket bat but it hardly has a mark on it, because it isn’t a common interest that they share.
Again, the writer is reminding us that Neil is an outsider, separated by the status level in society. He is also very self-conscious, unable to let go of his disease. Just to avoid water, Neil is willing to make up outrageous lies just to avoid swimming. One of the excuses he uses is “I’ve got my period.” This excuse also shows how heavy his mother influences him, because it is an excuse only his mother should use.
Although Neil’s mother does not actually appear in the story, she plays a big role in shaping Neil’s character. She is very controlling, and is always on Neil’s mind. Everything he says or does he must relate back to what his mother would do. At the very start of the story the first line she has is telling Neil to be tidy. This shows how ordered and structured their lives are. Already the author has created an image for Neil and his mother, how much she influences him.
When Neil hangs up his “good” jacket in the wardrobe, once again, we hear his mother’s voice in his head how she would think the wardrobe is to fancy and ornate. Once more, it shows their life is very ordinary compared to the higher society. Neil’s mother also says “Now you’ll be at school with the sons of doctors and lawyers.” This sentence proves they are from another society, a lower class and how she can’t completely trust the doctors and lawyers.
This is negatively impacting on Neil’s life because everything she says Neil will refer back to it. Although she does not completely trust the higher society, she hopes the best for her son. But in a way she is not doing Neil any good, always telling him what to do and what not, leaving Neil no chance to gaining any independence skills, unable to make decisions for himself. For instance when Neil was debating whether or not he should wear a tie to breakfast, he had to think about what his mother would say. Common sense tell us that you would not usually wear a tie to breakfast especially on a hot day, but Neil failed to decide what was right without thinking of his mother.
The Middletons also play a part in the shaping the story. They know that Neil does not want to swim, yet they pressure him to, the doctor said, “The forecast is twenty-one degrees” and “Anne innocently agreed with him.” The author has also chosen to include them in the story is because they play the higher society, the upper class where Neil is excluded and an outsiders to.