The Themes in the Short Story
Attention, finding out who you really are, obsession of showing that you are special, and parenting are some of the themes in the short story "Back to Front." Nick, the main character of the short story, is obsessed with the thought of being the center of attention. He is obsessed with showing the world that he is special and unique. He even sacrifices his own life, to fulfill his need of attention.
"Back to Front" is a English short story written by Nicola Barker. It was first published in "The Three Button Trick" in 2003. The author uses a omniscient narrator, so we do not only follow Nick's, but everybody's thoughts. In this case the narrator is reliable.
From the day Nick was born, he already was set apart. Outwardly he seemed very normal, but compared to everyone else, he was different inside. His organs were inverted. On line 24-25 it says: "Nick was set apart. He was different. Outwardly, not a sign, but inside, everything back to front". This fact played a significant part in Nicks life. His hole life he tried to show the world that he is unique, or in other ways, he constantly seeks for attention.
Only the doctors knew that Nick was different. So he could have grown up like a normal child. But he did not. He knew that he was special and that he was not like other ordinary people. By the time he began in school, he tried to get the attentions of his schoolmates. But he tried too hard, to convince them of his superiority, that they began to hate him, and finally to ignore him. On line 49-50 it says: "He became a blank. A nil. A nothing." Here it shows, that his failed try to be the center of attention, led him to be ignored. Not only in school is Nick being ignored, his mother who has always seen Nick like something special suddenly remarries to an African man called Thomas. On line 52-53 it says: "Grace thought Thomas was different, not ordinary like she and Nick were but, oh so special" This shows that Grace no longer sees her son like something extraordinary and special as she used to. Since being special and unique is the only identity Nick has ever had, and the only thing that has ever gotten him attention, he now feels alone and forgotten. The feeling of being worthless and ordinary is what drives Nick to the infinite search of attention, and several of his attempts to achieve it results in lying to the police about having committed shoplifting and other things.
Nicks mother, Grace, loves to be special. One thing, which she likes more than being special, is to tell others about how special she or her family is. When she got remarried, she forgot all about Nick. She lost all interest in him and was now only paying her new husband, Thomas, attention. He was not just an ordinary man, he was a Nigerian by birth and that she loved about him.
Lyndon is the man who meets Nick in the police cell. He has some problems with controlling his temper. Lying to himself he can take, but if anybody else tries to make a fool out of him, he gets very angry. On line 98 it says: "Don't fuck with me, man. I did that thing." Lyndon was the one who had robbed a jewelry store, and he was kind of proud of it. Instead of just shrugging his shoulders and ignore it, when Nick proclaimed, that he had committed the robbery, Lyndon takes it seriously and reveals, and even repeats several times, the thing he had been denying to the police. Instead of letting Nick take the blame for the robbery and in that way be free, Lyndon does not want anyone to take the honor for his crime. Probably because he also wants attention. Therefore he wanted to scare Nick of, and he stabbed him on the right-hand side. On line 109-110 it says: "Lyndon calculated that if he stuck his knife in, just so, in that place where nothing particularly important was stationed..." But what Lyndon did not know was, that his heart was on that side. So he unconsciously stabbed Nick in his heart.
After getting stabbed, Nick ends up in the hospital. Any ordinary person would have survived the stab, but because of Nicks reverse organs the stab was much more critical than it should be. While the doctor was trying to find out why Nick was losing such an unusually large amount of blood, Nick was debating with himself, whether he should or should not tell the doctor about his condition. He lost all rational thoughts and decided to let the doctor find out himself. In that way he just was laying there and enjoying the attention. Nick was willing to give up his life, to achieve being acknowledged as a "one of a kind".
The main theme of the short story "Back to Front" is undoubtedly, how the basic human desire of attention and recognition plays a destructive role in our lives. Nick has a eternal desire for attention, he is willing to do anything, just to get some of it. In the end, he does not even care from whom he gets the attention, or what he has to sacrifice to get it.
Nick is obsessed with showing the world that he is special, that he is unique, that he actually needs attention. This obsession goes overboard. He wants attention so badly that he even would sacrifice his life, just to be the center of somebody's attention. He had a need for being acknowledged, loved and accepted.