Empire of the Sun In this essay will be talking about how Ballard shows Jim changing over the course of the book The Empire of the Sun. I am splitting the essay into 5 paragraphs: What Jim is like at the start of the novel, Jim’s first upheaval, the prison camps, the way Dr Ransong and Bassie treat Jim and the contrast, finally what Jim is like at the end of the novel. At the start of this book, Ballard shows us a typical English schoolboy living in Shanghai.
This boy Jim and his family are very wealthy, so you can imagine what sort of lifestyle Jim was living in: Big house, servants that he can call on 24/7, a bike, many toys including aeroplanes. Then there are his clothes: A school blazer and cap. He is also is taught Latin. This shows us that he is very much surrounded by money and anything he could ever wish for. This creates an impression that he leads a very sheltered life and that he does understand reality. Jim has a very normal life. Everything is working well for him.
Until one day before he starts school, the Chinese fleet attack the “Petrol” (a Japanese gun boat. ) This is the first big upheaval in Jim’s life. This is totally unexpected to Jim. Nothing like this has ever happened before in Jim’s life, so it comes as a surprise to him. Ballard gives us the sense that Jim is a very ignorant boy because he thought that he started the war when he was flash his light at the opposite Chinese gun boat, and after the bombs had gone he still thought that he would go to school.
This shows a lack of maturity and common sense. This gives us a very bad picture of what Jim is like as a person. He thinks that he will still be able to go to school even though there is a war going on. Most people would think that he would be mad to think that. Ballard makes us see Jim as a very naive person. During the book, Jim spends a lot of the time in a prison camp. When he gets to the first camp, he befriends an American called Bassie. He persuades Bassie to help him find his parents in return for a reward.
This gives Bassie an opportunity to use Jim for any errands that he has for Jim, and for this Jim gets a little something in return. This is a complete change of lifestyle for Jim. He normally gets people to do his work for him, but now Bassie is making him do work for him. During his stay at the detention centre, Jim experiences hunger, disease and hallucinations. This again is another new experience for Jim. If he had the slightest illness when he was with his parents, he would get the best treatment for the illness, but now he has lost his parents, he has to fend for himself.
I think he copes with it very well. He manages to survives and moves on with his life When Jim and Bassie to another camp called Lunghua, Dr Ransong starts teaching him Latin. I think the reason he does is to try and keep Jim as a child. This is because he is losing his childhood because of the war. It is just trying to keep Jim safe until he matures fully. The way Dr Ransong and Bassie treat Jim are very different. Dr Ransong tries to keep Jim as a child to try and protect him from any dangers that occur.
Bassie on the other hand, he treats Jim as a young adult. This is because Bassie want Jim’s trust so that he can do more for him. Bassie tries to keep Jim alive by telling him the way to survive is to steal the metal food bowls in the detention centre from the dead people. So Jim is split two ways, Dr Ransong is trying to maintain Jim’s ignorance of the world by keeping his childhood to keep him safe, and Bassie is trying to make Jim look at the world very broadly so that Jim can survive and so Jim can keep doing jobs for Bassie.
At the end of the novel, Jim is a transformed child. He has gone from being a nai?? ve 10 year old, to being a mentally scarred 14 year old with a certain understanding of war and life in general. He has lost his childhood completely because of the death and war that he has experienced.