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One of the many themes in ‘Empire of the Sun’ is growing up. At the beginning of the book Jim is an optimist, but throughout the length of the book he is transformed, and by the end he has a more realistic view of things. The reader is shown how Jim grows up, through this transformation, and by the end of the novel it is clear that Jim has changed by the way his personality and approach to life has altered.
As a young child, Jim has seen some of the devastating results of the war, but seems to be detached from them. One of the first examples that show how lucky he is, is when he asks Vera where her parents lived. When she replies, ‘They live in one room, James’, Jim found this inconceivable, demonstrating how spoilt he is. Completely absorbed in his own privileged world, he spends his days riding his bicycle around the city, dreaming of being a fighter pilot like the Japanese pilots he sees flying overhead.
After he thought he had provoked the Japanese attack, by shining the torch out of the window to the Japanese ships, it is illustrated how ignorant Jim is when the author tells us that, ‘He decided not to tell his mother that he had started the war. ‘ On pages 64 – 65 we are invited to infer that Jamie is still a child as we are told his reaction to the talcum powder on the floor. Jim thinks that his mother has been dancing a tango, which we know to have been a struggle; by the way we are told that it “seemed far more violent than any tango he had ever seen.
” He is also portrayed as childish by the way he rides his bike around the house on page 67. The quote, ‘they seemed much younger than Jim, but in fact both were more than a year older,’ from the beginning of chapter 15, signifies that in the short time between leaving Shanghai, and arriving at the detention centre, Jim has already begun growing up. The words, ‘how much he had changed,’ on page 153, also demonstrate that Jim himself was beginning to recognise that he was growing up.
By the end of chapter 20, Jim ‘could no longer remember what his parents looked like. ‘ At this point, we can see that Jim’s experience has definitely made him older and further away from his parents, so much, it seems, that he cannot remember what they looked like. Quotes like, ‘a more adult eye’, ‘no longer cared’, ‘unexpected erection’ and ‘Kimura… had once been a child as he himself had been before the war’ give the impression that Jim is graduating from ‘The University of Life’ – or he is growing up from his experience.
According to Ballard, Jim’s ‘first adult act’ was when he pushed his suitcase into the river. He later regrets this, as he could have sold the contents, but still, it was his first adult act – the turning point in his life from childhood to a mature adolescent. As the book draws to a conclusion, it becomes clear that Jim has grown up. When he is reunited with his parents he realises that ‘his mother and father had been through a different war,’ showing that he was grown up and less dependant on his parents.
He is also older and wiser, and realises how patient China have been, and he thinks that ‘One day China would punish the rest of the world, and take a frightening revenge. ‘ By the end of the book we have a full picture of Jim’s difficult childhood. We can see that he has changed from the spoilt child, who goes to fancy dress parties in the middle of a war, and who can’t possibly believe that someone could live in a room the size of his dressing room, to a young adult who has graduated from the ‘University of Life’, and who now realised that China would one day take a huge revenge.
This change shows the reader that although thought of as a war novel, ‘Empire of the Sun’ is actually a Rites of Passage novel, and the war is just the time and place in which the story is set. Show preview only The above preview is unformatted text This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Miscellaneous section.