An Analysis of a Selected Passage Out of Susan Hill's "Im the King of the Castle."

Hill conveys Kingshaws feelings in two way, one by his inner commentary, and the other by the imagery of the events around him. I’m the King of the Castle is a heart wrenching story about two boys, thrown together by circumstance and trapped in a tragic enmity, that is ultimately fatal and tragic. This passage is placed at the near end of the book, an experience that highlights Kingshaw’s decent into depression. This scene is entirely set with the family attending a circus, something that deeply disturbs Kingshaw.

Hill uses dark and morbid imagery when describing the circus, an event that is normally fun, bright, happy, and highly entertaining event. Hill’s narration opens the passage, letting the reader into Kingshaw’s mind to experience his reaction to the circus; a reaction that is close to hysterical. She wrote that “when he closed his eyes, it made no difference, it made it worse… ”. The reason the writing in this passage is so effective is because it is written in a childish manner. Much like the quotation above, most of the ideas presented in the excerpt are contradictory and not fully developed.

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On the surface it makes no sense to say that something makes no difference, and then to tell you that it makes a huge difference. How ever in this situation the author has used this juxtaposed, contradictory sentence as a powerful literary device. Within the context of the passage the reader gets a clear sense of such terror that one cannot form coherent thoughts as to why one is so deathly terrified. It is obvious from Hill writing that Kingshaw is drifting into madness. This circus is described as Kingshaw’s personal hell.

To Kingshaw the tent is a foreboding, ominous structure, a “darkness… where ropes and ladders for acrobats [hang] limp and still. ” One could infer that the ropes are metaphors for nooses, with Hill describing the tent as a gibbet. The fact that the onlookers are described as having “bobbing white faces, and staring eyes. ” makes the reader think of them as being inhuman, or undead. Descriptions of the crowd “staring” and having “white faces” makes them seem cadaverous and bereft of life, blankly staring at the spectacles before them.

The clown handing out yellow balloon animals appears to Kingshaw as a monster. Hill goes so far as to describe the clown as an “it” with “a huge scarlet mouth, opening and shutting like the mouth of the carrion crow. ”, a carrion crow by definition is a bird who is a scavenger, who feeds on dead bodies, human or otherwise. Kingshaw’s place in the circus is most like that of the elephant for whom he “almost wept. ” The elephants are described as placid and pitiful victims, with the “tasseled caps they were made to wear, and the docile expression in their eyes. Kingshaw is very similar to the elephants in this situation. Much like the elephants, kingshaw is forced to be at the circus, “docile” and obediently sitting, experiencing a horrible event he obviously does not enjoy. Throughout the circus any protests Kingshaw may feel are expressed in ineffective ways and are quickly disregarded. Kingshaw as a character throughout the story, and especially in this particular excerpt, plays the classic role of a helpless, hopeless, victim. Hill also conveys Kingshaws dislike for the circus by describing what he smells.

Hill describes the smell as being one “of wet clothes, steaming, and sawdust… [and] animal dung”, these are not the smells of anything pleasant. In general the smell of “wet clothes” can be rotten and musty, “saw dust” has a smell that can be directly connected to cut down trees, a not particularly comforting image, and “animal dung” is the smell of feces, which is all together awful. Those smells illuminate and contribute to the terrible event Kingshaw is experiencing at the circus. My personal emotional response to the passage is one of sadness and empathy for Kingshaw.

I believe that this passage is a condensed commentary on the entire book, highlighting on the fact that Kingshaw has only one escape from the pervasive fears that dominate his young life. I believe this passage is flawlessly and admiralty written, it is a fine example of literature that draws you in, and makes you feel the way the author intended. In conclusion, author Susan Hill effectively and colorfully describes the fears of a young boy. She turns a joyful, family oriented evening of entertainment into a medieval execution scene.

She fluidly turns the universal symbol of clumsy, jolly clown, into a scavenging, carnivorous monster, symbolically feeding on Kingshaw’s fears. In this disturbing and effective scene, Hill transports the reader into a warped, evil, reality, filled with unescapable terror that travels with Kingshaw forever in his mind. A horrific existence Kingshaw, much like the elephants of the circus, is forced to wade through and wallow in. This passage defines the inescapable nature of self created fear in Kingshaw’s mind, and in someways is the most important and dramatic scene in the book.

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