I’m The King Of The Castle by Susan Hill Essay
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In my essay I am going to consider all the characters that have had an impact on the final tragedy, where Charles Kingshaw is found dead, having committed suicide. To do this I am going to study the characters individually and explain how they could have been responsible for the final tragedy in ‘ I’m The King Of The Castle’.
Along with Charles, the other main character in the book is Edmund Hooper, son of Joseph Hooper and future heir to Warings, the home his grandfather had built in Derne.
The house was some distance from any other and little had changed about it since it was first built. Made from dark red brick in gloomy surroundings, Edmund had unhappy memories of Warings from his early childhood. His mother, Ellen Hooper had died 6 years ago, so Edmund had been brought up by his father. He had no close relationship with his father and no respect for his grandfather. Edmund was a rude child, self-contained, scheming, clever, observant and closely resembled his mother.
At the beginning of the book we discover what happens when Mrs Kingshaw and her son, Charles first arrived at Warings. Keen to make a good impression Mr Hooper was a gentleman and greeted them politely at the door, Edmund however resorted to a note, which he threw from a window down towards Charles and read ‘I didn’t want you to come here’.
He refused to come down from his room to greet the guests and Charles Kingshaw kept the note a secret informing his mother that it was ‘ nothing, its nothing. It’s only a pebble.’ We learn here that he does not want to express any kind of emotion to his mother and is not honest with her from the very beginning. He puts the message ‘ fearfully’ in his pocket and as the reader we become aware that Hooper already has a domineering power over Kingshaw even though the two boys have never met before.
Hooper demonstrates to us right from the start that Warings is his. ‘When my father dies, this house will belong to me, I shall be master. It’ll all be mine.’ This quote mentions ‘master’ which has a continuous reoccurrence throughout the story and shows us that Hooper is expressing his control over the other characters. Hooper made no effort to become friends with Kingshaw, instead he told lies and played tricks on him regardless of the consequences. In one incident Kingshaw ventured out on his own and had a terrible experience involving a crow, even though Hooper was witnessing the incident, out of spite he ignored Kingshaw’s screams, showing the reader the hatred Hooper feels towards him.
Hooper continues to gain power over Kingshaw until the scenario in Hang Wood. Hooper follows Kingshaw, and then tries to take over as the leader, consequently getting them lost and shouting ‘its your fault, its your bloody fault’ He is switching his mistakes over to Kingshaw and blames him for them getting lost. Tension is built up through this chapter with the ‘ brewing of a thunderstorm’ when the ‘atmosphere changed.’ There are also lots of references to atmosphere and temperature during this stage of the book, especially in chapter 8.
Hooper no longer cared at this point if Kingshaw saw him afraid, as he wanted to be protected by him. Although at this point in the book Kingshaw ‘felt suddenly much older, overwhelmingly strong, powerful, like he could do anything at all’ Hooper still manages to hurt, insult and hold his control over Kingshaw.
Even though Hooper is being nicer to Kingshaw after the events that took place in the woods, still pulls’ babyish faces’ at Kingshaw, trying to hurt in other ways. (Physical/mental violence) After a terrible accident, which led to Hooper spending time in hospital, Kingshaw was ignored for ages and Hooper revelled in the attention he received from Mrs Kingshaw, using it as a way to get back at him. After Kingshaw commits suicide, Hooper realises that he has won the power struggle and felt ‘ a spurt of triumph’ on the discovery of Kingshaw’s body.
Mrs Kingshaw tries desperately to make a good impression towards Mr Hooper, as she wants things to work out between the two of them. She is also very eager for Kingshaw and Hooper to become friends and keeps telling Kingshaw to make more of an effort. She does no have good conversations with her son and and cannot know him very well, as she does not see the hurt and strong emotions he is keeping locked away. She is elfish and repeatedly reminds Kingshaw that ‘ this is my chance,’ unaware of her own son’s needs and wants. Oblivious to her surroundings Mrs Kingshaw does not think there are any problems between Kingshaw and Hooper and tries her hardest to treat them equal even though Hooper is not her real son.
Kingshaw is scared and frightened, but he refuses to give in and ask his mother for support as he would rather keep his feelings bottled up and deal with Hooper and his problems on his own. This shows the reader how poor the relationship is between Kingshaw and his mother and how Kingshaw learns to be independent, dealing with things on his own.
She believes that she is only thinking about her son’s happiness, but the true reality is she is only looking out for herself and her own happiness. However, at the beginning of the book she is anxious for Kingshaw to feel welcome and become friends with Hooper, but by the end of the book her priority is herself, and the impressions she makes towards Joseph Hooper. She tried to find new ways to deal with him after Hooper’s accident and spoke to him with a ‘ sharp and impatient tone.’ Kingshaw hates his mother and feels ‘disgraced by the way she is behaving around Mr Hooper, and begins to resent her presence there.
In Chapter 14, Kingshaw makes a ew friend called Fielding. He learns about life on the farm and views a calf being born. The two boys appear to get on very well together and Fielding asks Kingshaw if he would like to stay for dinner. Kingshaw thinks to himself ‘ Fielding is my friend, mine.’ He has managed to make a new friend and is proud of this accomplishment, but could also be a source of power over Hooper. He is afraid of Hooper controlling and taking over his life forever, so he seeks advice from Fielding. Fielding tries to teach Kingshaw to stick up for himself when Hooper comes home from the hospital.
When Fielding is invited around for tea he immediately agrees because he wanted to catch a bird and hold it in his hands.’ This is now how Kingshaw felt, trapped with nowhere to run or hide. He can see no escape from the torture living at Warings. Kingshaw becomes even angrier when he learns that Fielding has asked Hooper to become his friend behind Kingshaw’s back. He feels betrayed by the pair of them and becomes aggressive.
Mr Hooper does not have any real contact or association with Kingshaw throughout the novel, so I do no think that he is responsible for the tragedy at the end of the novel. He did not know how to control his own son, yet alone Kingshaw. He does however try to make Kingshaw feel welcome and apologises at the beginning of the book about Hoopers rude manner.
Having studied the book carefully I came to the conclusion that Hooper, Mrs Kingshaw and Fieldings all had an impact on Kingshaw’s lives and all therefore played apart in the events leading to his death. Charles was a scared, insecure child and kept his feelings to himself. He does not want to let his mother down, so refuses to let his emotions get the better of him. He resents the fact that she brought him to Warings and becomes increasingly ashamed of the way she talks and acts with no pride in herself. Kingshaw does not trust his mother and has no honest conversations or connections with her. When she decides to ‘mother’ Hooper this aggravates Kingshaw an he feels the others are uniting against him, forcing him into an awkward position that he cannot escape from.
Hooper mentally and physically torments Kingshaw from the day he arrives at Warings. He does not want him there and does everything possible to ensure he doesn’t enjoy his stay at Warings. He constantly reminds Kingshaw that he is the master of the house and he manages to hold a controlling power over him. There is a definite power struggle between the two boys from the start of the book right through until the last chapter, but Kingshaw’s death is a sign of a coward towards Hooper and he feels triumph at the sight of Kingshaw’s body because he is the winner. He never wanted Kingshaw to be there in the first place, so is glad that he has committed suicide.
Fielding’s betrayal of friendship towards Kingshaw left him feeling not only hurt, but also lonely and unwanted. The betrayal from Hooper and Fielding was what finally triggered Kingshaw to do something about his life. The people around him made his insecurities worse and he no longer felt cared for or needed in Warings. He had no friends, so was stuck in the house and the gardens on his own most of the time. The continuous trauma from Hooper affected him more by the end of the book, but because Kingshaw refused to admit his problems to his mother, the negative feelings built up inside of him and he saw no other way to escape from the torture and terrors of his childhood, but to end his life in a drastic way. I’m the King Of The Castle is a novel of childhood terrors and ends with a poignant tragedy that could have been prevented.