‘By the River’ Essay
The story of Harry Hodby living in a small country town and his growth into a young man is a ‘bildungsroman’. That is, it describes his coming of age, a process that moves children, sometimes quite roughly, into the adult world. The death of his mother and the loss of a dear childhood friend certainly force Harry to enter this adult world, as they teach him the importance of close and supporting relationships. Harry has to take on adult responsibilities earlier than expected after the loss of his mother to a fatal disease. Both he and his brother Keith, take over the housework “my brother and me shared the duties our mother left us” to help their father, who is busy in full time employment, providing for the family. It is Harry and Keith who keep the household running by “cooking” and keeping “the bathroom shining like a medal”. Harry has to combine these adult responsibilities with the grief that he feels, not only with the death of his mother, but also the death of his close friend Linda Mahoney. Linda Mahoney was Harry’s close school friend and her support enabled him to cope with the death of his mother and the small mindedness of his town. She shared her beliefs, ambitions, and her delicious orange cake with Harry. “She held out an orange cake and a card” and “I sat in the shade, enjoying her dreams and the sound of her eager voice until she stopped, closed her book, look up at me and ask, ‘ What do you want to be Harry?’ ”. This highlights Linda’s kindness to Harry and the way that she wants to encourage his dreams. When Linda drowned in a flood when Harry was 14, he grieved for her. From then on, Harry visited her memorial cross “so that our town had something worth remembering”, to tell her stories and to be close to her. He kept the area tidy in memory of Linda, just like his father looked after his mother’s memorial. His school friend, Johnny Barlow, also grieved Linda’s death. As the story in By the River progresses, Johnny...
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