Nick Hornby’s novel, ‘About a boy’ is a story about two boys. A 12 year old, named Marcus, who has a suicidal mother. And a 36 year old child-like-man called Will Freeman. Will, has never worked in his life, he was been living of the royalties of a song that his father had wrote for Christmas, over 70 years ago. Marcus is very much a ‘mummy’s boy.’ He is so close to his mother that his taste in music and clothes are identical. When he starts his new school, he realises that he is an easy target for bullies as his hair is cut ‘dodgy’ by his mum and he has a tendency to sing aloud in class….
When we see Marcus in chapter one, we see a naive teenager. On the very first page of the book, Marcus’ mum Fiona suffers from a break up. “Have you spilt up now?” This very quote shows the naivete of Marcus. This childish questions, suggest that Marcus has not developed any level of maturity and has no means of comforting his mother. However, with this in mind, Marcus has a very logical way of thinking, and there are there are two valid reasons for this bold statement. When we do see the break up incident, Marcus realises that when people begin to do things together (almost like a family) they should gel and stay together.
“He’d once shared a toilet with Roger, when they were both busting for a pee after a car journey. You’d think that if you’d peed with someone you ought to keep in touch with them somehow.” This logical thinking by Marcus suggest that he had thought about future with his mum and Roger, and that Roger would stay because of the family relationship that they all shared. The second reason why I believe he has a logical process is the pizza incident happens. When the break up argument began, they had just orders three pizzas. As we know Marcus and Fiona are ‘vegetarians’, but Roger wasn’t, so one of the pizza contained peperoni. “We’ll throw it away then?” Fiona suggests, but Marcus being Marcus, he promotes that they should “Pick the peperoni off.”
This suggests that instead of throwing away a perfectly good pizza, Marcus thinks that they can still eat the pizza without the peperoni topping. Although Marcus is still very naive, we see a very different side of Marcus on the very past page of chapter 1. He is very protective of his mum. When they have fished eating and arguing, Marcus finds the TV remote and “Zapped through the channels. He didn’t want to watch any of the soaps, because soaps were full of trouble, and he was worried that the trouble in the soaps would remind his mum of the trouble she had in her own life.” This quote suggests that because of his mother’s break up’s and troubles, he did not want the TV reminding her of anything, which really shows how protective he is over his mother.
Marcus has just moved house, which unfortunately means he starts a new school. In the first few chapters, we see life for Marcus in school, and it wasn’t going to be easy. He is different from his peers. There times in the book, which really shows how apart he is from everyone. Firstly, he arrives for school. EARLY. Not a typical act from a teenager. “He got to school early, went to the form room, sat down at his desk.” This is one of vey first examples, of why he is very different.
Not many teenagers would willingly want to come to school early. The way he dresses, and the way he looks is another issue. “He was usually wearing the wrong shoes or the wrong trousers, and his haircut was wrong all the time.” This would mean that he would be an easy target for bullies. However, worst is still to come. “A song had slipped out yesterday during English.” When he had an English lesson, Marcus unexpectedly sang a song whilst the teacher was reading. As a kid, this really ‘sealed the deal’ for Marcus.
Luckily, Marcus had found a few friends who were also outsiders like him. They were Nicky and Mark. Marcus meet them by an after school computer club. However, their relationship with each other was very timid. “He was being left out deliberately” Marcus was waiting his turn on the Gameboy, at this point in the book. Although he hasn’t done anything wrong, he was still singled out.
Suddenly, things to a turn for the worse for their relationship. At lunchtime, a few bullies, who had been tormenting Marcus before, came up to Marcus and his friends, and began insulting them. When they had gone, Mark spoke out and said. “Marcus, we don’t want you hanging around with us anymore.” This shocked Marcus. He knew that if they were to hang out with him, they would all get bullied. These so called ‘friends’ that Marcus had, had been unsupportive and nothing like Marcus. This shows how different Marcus really is; he cannot fit in with people who are so similar to him.
As have mentioned before, Marcus is overprotective over his mum, because of their closeness and the strong relationship they have. In the fifth chapter, we see Marcus worrying about his mother. This is caused by the constant crying habit his mom has developed. This had frightened him. “One Monday morning his mother started crying before breakfast, and it frightened him.” In this scenario in the book, Marcus understands that his mum is going through a tough time but he does not know what to say or do. “He didn’t know what to say.”
So instead, when we went for his weekly shop, he stuck to the ‘economy sized packets of cereal, because he knew that is he had brought banded name, then his mum would be angry. This again shows how protective he is over his mum. With this in mind, he had realised that there was “an advantage of her terrible depression.” Without her knowing he bought the branded ‘Coco-Pops.” This shows that he was still taking advantage out of his mother’s sadness.
In the final few page of chapter 7 we see an intense moment between Marcus and Fiona. Marcus finally confronts Fiona about her constant depression and the fact the she hasn’t been looking after him. “All you do is make my meals and I could do that. The rest of the time you just cry. That’s… that’s no good. That’s no good to me.” This shows that Fiona does not know how to look after a child. However, Marcus does not help or resolve the matter; instead he heads off to his room. “He went upstairs to his room and played NBA Basketball with the earphones on.” This shows a level of immaturity and a certain lack of social skill. Fiona claims that “we’re not doing each other any good” to Marcus. This again is more evidence to prove that Fiona simply cannot look after Marcus.
When we see Will in chapter eight, he describes Marcus as being “the weird kid.” Will thinks this about Marcus because of the way he acts. For example, when they were at the back of a car together, Marcus began ‘humming tunelessly’. This would not be a normal act performed by a teenager, and this led Will into believing he is strange. There is more evidence for Will to believe Marcus is weird. “‘You know Michael Jackson, right? He makes a million pounds a minute,’ said the weird kid.” When Marcus said this, Will thought he was making things up, which again led Will to believing he is weird.
At the park, Marcus accidently killed a duck in the lake. In this part of the book, Marcus changes his mind about Will in a matter of minutes, from despising him, and then realising that he was one his side. “Who did this Will think he was?” Will was trying to be sarcastic about the matter, but Marcus, did not find it funny. Then, all of a sudden “Marcus looked up at him; maybe he didn’t hate him after all.” Will then made the incident look like it had affected them in front of the park-keeper. Marcus had changed his view about him, in a flash, without him doing anything. All of this suggests that Marcus has mixed opinions on will, on moment he is the hero, and the next he is just a stranger,
In chapter nine, we sadly see a suicide attempt from Fiona. The events leading up to this moment, is very intense. On the day of the suicide attempt, Marcus is at Regent Park for a picnic with Suzie and Will. Whilst Will and Suzie were talking, Marcus was feeding the ducks, with loaf hard bread that Fiona had made, he had then accidently thrown the whole loaf in to the lake and a killed a duck. Hence the ‘Dead duck day.’ All of a sudden Marcus could see Fiona across the lake waving and smiling at him, he turned around to tell Suzie but when he looked back she was gone. “It was then that Marcus saw-or thought he saw-his mum.
She was standing in front of them, blocking the path, and she was smiling. He waved and turned around to tell Suzie that she’d turned up, but when he looked back his mum wasn’t there.” This part of the book is based on symbolism. I think it represents symbolism because there is a link between what happened with the Dead duck and the fact that she was there, meant that it was a way of saying bye to Marcus. It was almost like a premonition for Marcus, that something was about to happen. “A new part of his life began, bang, without any warning at all.” When I saw this part in the book, it really surprised me. I wasn’t aware of how Fiona was so depressed, that caused her to a terrible act like this. As a reader, I would say that Fiona’s depressions was only recognised as just her crying most the time, I was not sure she would have gone to that greater length, and commit suicide.
It is obvious that Marcus was hit hard by the fact that his mother had committed suicide. At the end of chapter nine, it reads “he knew the moment he walked in that it was something he’d have to think about forever.” At this point in the book, we see Marcus’ character really open out. This continues as we read on.
When they reach the hospital, Marcus is in the waiting room, reflecting on other people troubles and compares this to his mum. “My mum’s not like these people. Supposing they think she is, though?” he believes that the hospital might treat her as being just a normal druggy.