Kingshaw's Misery in I'm the King of the Castle

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Ella Gordon        Kingshaw’s Misery in I’m the King of the Castle        3rd October

        Throughout the novel I’m the King of the Castle by Susan Hill, we are constantly aware of the misery felt by twelve-year-old Charles Kingshaw. This, and the way it is shown, is very important in really understanding his character, and what eventually leads him to his own death.

        Charles Kingshaw has a series of irrational fears. Although this is normal for most children, his fears are so crippling that they go far beyond the typical childish nightmare. An example of one of these fears is swimming pools. Early on in the book, Kingshaw recalls being taken to an open-air swimming pool by his father as a much younger child. He remembers how he had feared the water, not only because he couldn’t swim, but also because of its “glassy, artificial blueness” and how “people’s limbs looked huge and pale and swollen underneath.” He also fears the “terrible” moths in the Red Room at Warings, and is afraid of touching their “furry bodies”. Another fear he has is of crows. Even before he is attacked by the crow in the cornfield outside Warings, Kingshaw notes that it has “ragged black wings” and “small, glinting eyes”. He has to tell himself that it is “stupid to be scared of a rotten bird”. Later on, when Hooper puts the stuffed crow on his bed, he is “faint with fear” and wishes for his own death – even though he knows immediately that it is not real.

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        This is just one example of the way Hooper exploits Kingshaw’s fears during the novel. When he brings Kingshaw to the Red Room to show him the moths, it seems he just wants to show off. But he immediately recognises that Kingshaw is afraid when, upon seeing the moths, when he “sharply” draws his breath. Hooper mocks him and orders him to touch one, and Kingshaw’s instinct is to fight as hard as he can – anything to avoid having to feel them. Hooper watches him and sees this, and runs out of the room, locking the door behind ...

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