The Badness Within Him
by Susan Hill
Theme: Male Adolescence
• The restlessness of adolescence: frustration with routine and being caught in between childhood and adulthood – Col’s desire for ‘a storm’ or some kind of change to the hot, sunny weather that seemed dragging (adolescence) • aggression and violence against his family
• the end of childhood
• Oedipus Complex - Also allusion to Oedipus complex, where son feels rivalry with his father and siblings for his mother’s attention.
• To reflect on Col’s rationalization of his father’s death. Clearly, there is no connection between his father’s unfortunate accident and Col’s desire for swift change. However, with his father’s death, the chance for Col to be a child is lost and with no other means of rationalizing such an irreversible event, he sees his father’s death as a punishment for his wish for change and his negative behavior within his family during adolescence. • To define ‘the badness within him’; good vs evil and the more implicitly, the position of man before traditional constructions of God - ‘prayer’ and ‘punishment’ Col saw his father drowning but was emotionally distant until the very end of the story where he cathartically weeps. He blames himself: “I am punished.” “finally he knew the power of the `Badness within him`.
“But even while he prayed he had known that there could be no answer because of `The badness within him `.
Chronological style combined with few flashbacks in which Col remembers his childhood and family when he was younger. From the starting point of the prayer to Col’s response to his prayer after it is fulfilled – within the space of 24 hours. Can be divided into three parts – childhood, present (before father’s death) and uncertain future (after father’s death). He thinks back on the past, were he felt good time in the summerhouse, were he felt like being apart of the family, while Cole and Jess still were “fitting” together, and able to have fun and enjoy their time together. (Refer to quotes in section mood).
1.the Cliff – his (self-)alienation from his family; his ability to view his life and family from a detached and distanced view where he is large and everyone he sees is ‘beneath’ him. Col has a superiority complex, believing that his family is content with routine and uninteresting activities 2. sandcastle (metaphor for the family), the tower coming down first. A castle made of sand is fragile – his family relationships are unstable. He kicks the sandcastle (He wanted to do some violence in this house) and the tower falls first – the tower represents his father which is a foreboding of his father’s pending accident and death. It also relates to Oedipus complex where absent/dead fathers are connected to the male child’s desire for the mother’s attention 3. colors which represented Col's family used when he was looking at the dots from the cliff 4. Badness – analogy: like a cancer – illness/madness of adolescence. “But even while he prayed he had known that there could be no answer, because of the badness within him, a badness which was living and growing like a cancer 5. Black dog on his shoulder – ‘A perfectly enormous, coal black, monster of a dog’ - a black dog has often been associated with evil or the Devil. This is another allusion to Col’s ‘badness’. (NOTE: BADNESS is an informal word. The correct term is evil. Good vs evil). A dog is also an animal or a beast which has the connotation of being irrational and possibly violent 6. Analogy – ‘sea still like glass’. Stillness/stagnation/paralysis of adolescence is likened to glass that can be shattered in a moment, which is what happens when Col’s father dies. 7. The house – metaphor for the family. See characterization – setting. 8. The weather – represents Col’s state of mind (see Characterisation of setting) 9. the storm – change/ drastic change from...