How Many Miles to Babylon

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Characters : -
Alexander (Alex, alec)
Alicia (Alex’s Mum)
Frederick (Alex’s Dad)
Jerry
Setting: - Early 20th Century Ireland, WW1 in France (Two settings) Summary – Part 1
* The story starts with the narrator Alexander Moore who is awaiting his death by a firing squad. * We get an indication early on in the text that the relationship with his parents is not good. * ‘My heart doesn’t bleed for her’ referring to his mother. This shows us that he did not have much love for his mother. * ‘As a child I was alone’. This indicates the incredible loneliness felt by Alex as a child. * ‘Their only meeting place was the child’. This refers to the unhappy marriage of Alicia and Frederick. * Alicia tries constantly to control both Alex and Frederick. * Frederick wants Alex to attend school and meet other people. However his mother puts a stop to this. * Alex meets Jerry and he is happy to have a friend at last. ‘I had a friend’. * Jerry and Alex continue to spend time together. They mind the ponies and swim together. They also experience their first taste of alcohol together ‘poteen’. * ‘It was discovered’ – referring to Jerry and Alex’s friendship being discovered by Alicia. * She refers to Jerry as a ‘stupid boy’. She forbids Alex to see Jerry anymore. She decides that she is bringing Alex to Europe to give him a cultural education. However, the real reason is that she wants to separate him from Jerry. She manipulates both her son and her husband and dismisses their opinions on any matters. * Both parents have no understanding of the basic needs of the child. Frederick agrees with Alicia about their friendship, ‘One must accept the limitations of the class into which you are born. They must be accepted’. Alex’s father is a coward but he does love his son. He is unable to express this love however. * He is as Alicia says ‘an effective man’.

* Alicia wants Alex to go to fight in World War 1. Frederick refers to her as an ‘absurd woman’. She wants Alex to go to war so that she can end the relationship that exists between Alex and his father, Frederick. She tells Alex that he is becoming more and more like his father each day. * Frederick tells her ‘Ponder deeply before you take away my son. No is what I say. No!’ The idea of Alex going to war deeply distresses his father. However, Frederick is powerless to stop her as he is a coward. * He tells Alex ‘You don’t think she’s packing you off to war for serious reasons, do you?’ We can understand that Alicia is telling Alex to go to war because she no longer wants to carry on with the facade of her marriage. She also does not want Alex and Frederick to continue their good relationship. * She tells Alex that Frederick is not his father ‘Suppose he were not your father?’ She knows how to manipulate Alex. Alex takes in the terrible content of what she has just said. He does not believe her at first but he is devastated when she tells him that it is indeed true. However we, as readers will never truly know if she was telling the truth. However, this revelation devastates Alex. * He meets Jerry and they go for a swim ‘like old times’. * Alex tells Jerry about his mother’s revelation. Jerry tells him ‘they all say what suits them, when it suits them’. Both of these characters haves suffered at the hands of women. Jerry is enlisting in the army for ‘cash’. It is this cash that will help his family survive at home. Alex is enlisting to escape his mother and his unhappy family. They both have a negative attitude towards women because they have never experienced the love of a woman. * Alex returns home after a night of drinking with Jerry. He is leaving the following morning. He comments on his parents that ‘They will grow old immaculately, their implacable hatred of each other hidden from the world’. * Alex informs his parents the following morning that he will be leaving. His father is shocked...
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