Key themes

Mind Map by tofunmadey, updated more than 1 year ago
Created by tofunmadey over 6 years ago


A mind map of the key themes in I'm the king of the castle and some examples

Resource summary

Key themes
  1. Cruelty and the power of evil
    1. Cruelty is shown clearly through Hooper's treatment of Kingshaw. He locks him up in the Red room, in the shed, lies against him, torments him with his greatest fears, with threats and with the stuffed crow
      1. Cruelty is also shown throughout the novel in more 'subtle' ways and in nature. Hill uses vivid descriptions to show the theme of cruelty. Thrush's banging open a snail's shell, killing turkeys on Fielding's farm, humiliation of animals in the circus
        1. Hill also clearly shows the capacity that children have for cruelty and hence their need for guidance from parents and teachers in order for them to grow up valuing love and compassion. She shows this natural trait not only in Kingshaw and Hooper's relationship but also by sharing Kingshaw's past experiences with other children with the reader. Therefore, this explains why Hooper is unable to show these qualities as he has no real guidance and hence has not been able to develop in a way that is acceptable in society, but rather his 'innocent' childhood has been corrupted by natural cruelty and heartlessness.
          1. The source of the evil that dwells inside of Edmund Hooper remains a mystery to the readers. There are, however a few possibilities: - It has developed due to his lack of love and parental guidance following the death of his mother and neglect from his father -Due to his jealousy about the arrival of another boy -Influence by an evil force
          2. Isolation and loneliness
            1. All of the main characters, inspite of being forced together, are isolated as they cannot even communicate with their family members, not to mention with each other
              1. Susan Hill gives insight into their inability to relate with other people by recording their thoughts. For example, Mrs Kingshaw's conversation with her friend near the end of the novel reveals that she is unable to communicate directly with Mr Hooper. The fact that she then marries him is not only ironic, but also confirms to the reader her superficiality and that she places her material status above even her son.
                1. Kingshaw, however, is the most isolated character. He is a very hopeful character, however, throughout the novel, his hopes are constantly being dashed, making him increasingly vulnerable. He arrives hoping to make friends with Hooper and although he realises early on that this is unlikely and gives up at times, his hopes continue to return and are dashed over and over again. His hopes to return to St Vincent's after the summer are largely what sees him through his time at Warings, however, these too are dashed. Then Fielding becomes his only hope as he looks for what will see him through a lifetime at Warings and he loses him too, leaving him hopeless. In addition, the parents pay no attention to him.
                  1. The theme of isolation is also reinforced through Hill's description of Warings. It stands isolated from the village of Derne, and the hostile images Hill uses when Kingship travels out into the countryside, emphasise his loneliness and vulnerability there
                  2. Lack of love, ignorance and neglect
                    1. None of the four main characters love or are loved by another person. Mr Hooper doesn't love Mrs Kingshaw (physical/ superficial attraction) and she doesn't love him either (material attraction). She also doesn't love her son (supports Hooper), Kingshaw and he too doesn't love her (he 'hates' her). Furthermore, at the beginning of the novel we hear that Mr Hooper doesn't like to look at his son, Hooper, because he resembles his mother while the readers are made very aware that there isn relationship between them.
                      1. The parents behave ignorantly and are largely unaware of, and at times uninterested in what happens between their children, so long as they please each other. Mrs Kingshaw takes Hooper's side whenever she can to please Mr Hooper and in order to make sure that her own son doesn't give her a bad image when he 'misbehaves'. She overestimates Kingshaw's childish naughtiness and underestimates the strength and value of his feelings Both Mr Hooper and Mrs Kingshaw are very irresponsible, seeing worrying traits in their sons yet choosing still to focus only on themselves.
                        1. Kingshaw is the only one of these characters showing a sensitivity that suggests his capacity to love, however, with no example to follow, we see that he has become introverted and uncertain. However the only character shown to not be looking for this love is Hooper.
                          1. Susan Hill also displays love as an important and empowering emotion. She shows this clearly through the contrasts that she draws between the Hoopers, Kingshaws and Fielding's family. Fielding is shown to be joyful and confident, as one would expect from a child his age and this highlights the abnormality and weakness that the lack of love leads to in the lives of the other characters
                          2. Nature
                            1. The ugly and dismal appearance of Warings contrasts greatly with the beauty of the nature that surrounds it. This then accentuates the contrasts between Kingshaw's feelings of liberty and peace in nature/ outside of Warings and the anxiety and distress that he feels when in Warings
                              1. Nature, however, is also depicted as violent. This can be seen with the storm, the crow that torments Kingshaw, the woods and the dead, rotting rabbit. However, the violence of nature contrasts with Hooper's violence towards Kingshaw as it has no malice.
                                1. The moths also symbolise terror while the pathetic fallacy, in terms of the stormy weather and the approach of autumn suggest Kingshaw's increasing anxiety and increasingly barren hope
                                2. Childhood
                                  1. In this novel, Susan Hill explores the subject of childhood and the truths about childhood experience in order to inform adults about it and in doing this, she challenges the traditional view that children are bold and happy
                                    1. Hill shows the strong correlation between the type of upbringing/ childhood experience that we receive and our life later on, and she does this at the start of the novel by showing the lasting effect of Mr Hooper childhood on his life. As a result, not only does Hooper's upbringing explain his callous behaviour and Kingshaw's fearfulness take root in his insecure family life, but also this foreshadows darkness and sorrow in the lives of both boys in future
                                      1. Kingshaw and Hooper are treated seriously and appear to be advanced beyond their ages in different ways. Kingshaw shows a sensitivity and awareness that is more complex than one would expect to see in a 10-year old. Moreover, Hooper's character forces the reader to accept that such evil can be found in such young children and also leads us to question whether children are responsible for their own actions/ behaviour
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