76 pages • 2 hours readNick Hornby
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Marcus, the novel’s 12-year-old protagonist, is earnest and exacting. He is misunderstood by his peers and adults alike because of his “literal-minded” manner of speaking and inability to understand jokes and sarcasm (108). However, he is also considerate and caring. Marcus feels an undue amount of responsibility for his mother Fiona’s happiness, thinking he can find ways to prevent her from committing suicide. The stress of this responsibility and schoolyard bullying is evident in Marcus’s tendency “to disappear into his own head completely” (103) and inability to distinguish reality from his internal world.
Marcus’s life at the beginning of the story is greatly influenced by his mother. She cuts his hair, chooses unstylish clothing for him, and presses her taste in ‘70s music on him. As a result, he has nothing in common with his schoolmates. Therefore, he needs Will to advise him on how to fit in better with his peers. Because his father is often absent from his life, Marcus feels entitled to Will’s time, attention and gifts, especially because Will is wealthy and does not work. Under Will’s influence, which greatly contrasts with Fiona’s, Marcus begins to think for himself and learns he does not have to adopt his mother’s values.
By Nick Hornby