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How does Barry Hines create sympathy for Billy Casper in ‘A Kestrel for a knave’? Kes is a novel written by Barry Hines set in Sheffield, south Yorkshire, in the 1960’s. The story describes two different places that really contrast each other. The first place is where Billy lives all the houses are council houses, the whole area is run down and deprived of luxuries such as central heating. The contrasting place is called Firs Hill where all the houses are big, clean and very posh with lots of luxuries like hot running water. I suppose we already feel sorry for Billy because of the disadvantaged area he lives in.
Kes raises a lot of 1960’s issues for example, Billy has no father, his mother goes out most nights and always returns home with a new man, making us feel sorry for Billy as he’s no one to look up to. Another issue is that of the education system which lets Billy down badly. He attends a boy’s secondary modern where he suffers draconian punishment such as thrashes from a cane or lashes from a belt. Billy will have to leave school when he is 15; his only choice of employment will be to work down the mine (pit) with his brother Jud who’s a bully.
Billy hates the thought of having to work down the mine, which creates sympathy as he’s forced into a no hope situation. The first incident I have chosen is Sugden P. E lesson (pg. 87-108) I have chosen this because when you compare Billy to a bully like Sugden, it shows how pitiful Billy really is. In this part of the novel Hines has managed to create sympathy for Billy by showing how weak and vulnerable Billy’s character is. Billy has to tell Sugden he’s forgotten his P. E kit and Sugden makes him wear a pair of shorts which are massive, the class roars with laughter and even Billy has to smile.
The only person not amused was Sugden. This part emphasises on the hard strict character Sugden is and makes Billy look like a complete wimp. The class then goes onto the field and football teams are picked. Billy is last to be selected which shows he has no friends. You feel sorry because he’s the loner of the class, not only does he get picked last, but he is made to go in goal, this appears to be a regular thing as Billy states “I’m fed up o’ goin’ in goal. I go in every week. ” In this same incident a dog wonders on to the pitch.
Sugden, bringing out his bulling character, resorts to violence and tells the boy’s “Go and fetch half a dozen cricket bats from the games store,” Billy sticks up for the dog saying “It’ll not hurt you. ” And manages to lead the animal off the field without getting hurt. This shows a caring side to Billy and how he relates to animals. The end of lesson bell sounds but the match carries on. Time is being expressed in this part of the story maybe to show how slowly it is passing and to create tension as to who’s going to win the game.
Eventually it’s all over and the boy’s race inside to the showers. Sugden watches Billy as he changes and blocks off his exit because he didn’t have a shower. Billy denies not having one and comes up with the excuse of having a cold but can’t produce a sealed letter from a legal guardian to prove it. At this point in the novel you can feel the unnecessary humiliation Sugden inflicts upon Billy as he sends him into the showers not once but twice and orders three other boys to help. This part emphasises on just what a bully Sugden is and creates sympathy as Billy suffers Sugdens taunting.
The film version of this incident is slightly different; it starts off with a distance shot of Sugden outside doing an over exaggerated warm-up. Circus fair music is being played which makes his warm-up seem very funny. As the camera gets closer you can see that Sugden is full of his own self importance as he comes over as being real big headed. The next shot cuts to the changing room showing an over the shoulder shot of Sugden having a go at Billy for forgetting his kit. This shot gives the impression of Sugden towering over Billy and shows how small and scrawny Billy is compared to a bully like Sugden.
(The size difference does not come over in the book. ) There is also a low angle shot of the boys looking in at Sugden and Billy, which creates the impression of them crowding round to watch. This shot creates sympathy for Billy as it shows the whole class watching as Sugden tares strips of him. The shot then cuts to the outside scene where all the boys are lining up ready to be picked. It projects Billy as an isolated, pathetic figure as he’s left standing alone, waiting for his name to be called. The book tells us that Billy is picked last and this shot directs attention towards him looking alone and segregated.
The football scene is cut short in the film, I think this is to keep the story flowing as it seems to drag on a bit in the book. However the film missed out the dog scene, which portrayed Billy’s understanding of animals and how he treats them different to adults. Throughout the football scene the camera is mostly focused on Sugden. It shows in sequence Sugden taking the penalty twice and sending a boy off for a foul he made himself, then he’s seen hitting two boys for not participating in the game properly. These shots are all designed to show him as a bully.
The close ups show his facial expressions as being stern and strict. This emphasised his bulling character whereas the book can only reveal his character by how he talks and acts. Both make you dislike him. The final scene opens with a shot of Sugden stopping Billy for not having a shower, while Billy gets undressed Sugden starts laughing with the other boys, creating pity for Billy as everyone seems to pick on him. The shot cuts to a close up of Sugden turning the shower temperature dial form hot to cold, as in the book.
This is an important scene because it shows just how far Sugden will go with his self ego and the fact that no-one bothers sticks up for Billy shows how lonely he is. The shots of Billy in the showers alone are mid shots and close ups. The close-ups show details like goose pimples and actually start to make you feel cold. The shot of him by himself make him look isolated and lonely again creating pity. This part of the story comes across a lot better in the film than in the book.