29th September 2002
The King of the Castle Character Assessment
Joseph Hooper is a man of his own and he thinks that he is a great man of status; because of this he is very selfish, and he only cares about himself. ‘I will not live here again, until it belongs to me.’ He was a very self-centred man because his father had suffered from a second stroke and he didn’t want to look after him or live there unless the house was his. Joseph Hooper was master in his own house, but his son Edmund should have been the master because he’s hardly there. He is very controlling and domineering and it is ironic what he says. He finds it hard to cope as a single parent, so the father and son relationship becomes cold, clinical and distant and they don’t have a good respectable attitude towards one another. Joseph wants to try and get his son a friend and someone to look after them in their home, so they can have some company and not be alone. He is also very sensitive and overprotected about his son going into the Red Room. This was because it belonged to his father and he wanted it to be left the way it was, so they could have something to remember him by. Joseph is very soft and weak with his son and he listens to him and does what he says. The father is thinking about one thing and his son is doing another, so Edmund is not the son he thinks he is. Edmund says that his grandfather looks like, ‘one of his dead old moths.’ Joseph Hooper is very angry at Edmunds attitude, and tells him to show respect. This shows that he has a soft side to him and he does care about how other people talk about his father. Joseph is very old and has a thin face.
Joseph was somehow very oppressed about his father’s paperwork; and he was ashamed of the ‘paraphernalia’ of death. He labels his father after his death and his deeds and papers. Joseph is an uncaring parent and he doesn’t like to spend time with his son, because he lets him have his freedom and he can do whatever he wants. Edmund is a master of himself, with no one to tell him off. Joseph doesn’t even know his son well enough because he tells him to go and play cricket, but Edmund refuses to because he doesn’t like cricket. ‘You had really much better be playing cricket in the sun.’ Hooper doesn’t like to waste time with Edmund and calls it a ‘foolish argument.’
Joseph’s family are rich because the house ‘Warings’ had been built by Edmunds great-grandfather. Joseph Hooper’s father had owned a good deal of land. Hooper thinks that Edmund should be very proud with the history of ‘Warings’ and he is also proud that he is a Hooper because he says to his son, ‘You will come to understand what it means to be a Hooper, as you get older.’ He is a man of ambition and investment and his family history is very important, to him because he says to his son, ‘He was known and respected the world over. This collection is worth a great deal of money.’ He had brought Edmund in the Red Room and lectured and instructed him, and made him watch as the insects were removed from their poison-fume bottles. This shows that he took a lot of interest in the insects and moths in the Red Room; and he wanted his son to be engaged and experienced about it too. He also said to Edmund that everything would belong to him and he should learn the value of what he will inherit. Joseph knew only a part of Edmund, and he knew that he regarded the Red Room as worthless, and he wanted to see Edmund make a name for himself. This is ironic because he is telling his son to do this, when he couldn’t make a name for himself. On the other hand I think that he wants his son to live a better life than him and give him the best future he could ever have. He also wanted his son to do the things, which he couldn’t do in life, such as having a big profession and making something of his life and future. Joseph also knew that his son would never make a name of himself or something big.
I think that Joseph Hooper was a fairly good single parent; he tried his best to teach his son the right and wrong things. He also likes to boost a lot about the collection, which his grandfather had as part of his hobby. ‘Every ounce of his energy apart from that went into building up this collection.’ He wanted his son to have some pride in his family’s importance, just like any parent want their children to do. ‘For ought not a boy to feel some pride in his family’s importance.
Joseph Hooper also knew that he wasn’t happy that Kingshaw and Mrs Kingshaw were coming to stay with him. Hooper starts to take an interest in his son and he wants them to start communicating to each other and feel free to come and talk to him about anything, such as if something is wrong, he doesn’t want his son to be afraid to talk to his father like he was with his father. ‘But you must come to me and tell me about things, you must not be afraid to admit when something is wrong.’ He also knew that Edmund was going to suffer and he was anxious about this. ‘But Joseph Hooper looked for subtleties beneath the surface of things, anxious, because he had been warned of how much the boy would suffer.’
When Edmund makes a battle field Joseph says, ‘But that is not what any battlefield ever was, that…’ This showed that he was making a gesture, and he wanted to talk, he didn’t want to feel like an intruder and a stranger in his own son’s room. He wanted Edmund and him to be close together because they have only one another and they ought to be able to talk freely with each other. For some reason, Joseph couldn’t tell his son about his own experiences in the battlefield. He thought that the reason why he can’t deal with his son is because he was too young, and he thought that he could deal with him better and understand him if he were older. Edmund is only eleven years old and he is not going through adolescence. Joseph feels alienated from his own son.
This is a preview of the whole essay
Joseph doesn’t talk to his son about how he felt and how much he wished that everything here would please Mrs Helena Kingshaw. This shows that if Joseph doesn’t talk to his son and explain his feelings, then his son will do the same, because that’s what he’s learnt from his father. Edmunds answers back to his father a lot, but Joseph doesn’t do or say anything to him. He wanted to hit his son for speaking to him in that manner, and it is foolish that he allows him to get the upper hand and insolence. He wanted to be truthful to his son, but he knew that he couldn’t. The reason why he didn’t say anything to his son was because he had never done so in his life and he had left it too long, so nothing could be done. Hooper admits that he tried to avoid his father’s mistakes but he only succeeded in replacing them with so many of his own. He blames his wife for this, because she was the only one who had known Edmund and how to handle him, and she didn’t leave a set of rules for him to follow.
When Joseph and his son have a straight and simple conversation, it usually turns into a quarrel, and Joseph just likes to drop the subject straight away and he doesn’t like to argue or tell his son off. ‘That is not the sort of thing to say, it is not something we need be concerned with now.’ If he’s a parent then he should talk to his son about it and explain why. He only talks to his son about the family history and his grandfather’s importance. Edmund is replaying his father’s childhood because Joseph was exactly the same with his own father, but he wanted to make some amendments to their relationship. Joseph Hooper considered himself as not a hard man and he knew that he regretted his poor parenting skills. ‘For he knew that he had failed, from the very beginning, to ingratiate himself with Edmund.’ Joseph Hooper only takes heed about his family pride and reputation because his grandfather had a collection of animals, and he thought that they should sell them because they weren’t a matter of family pride. This was selfish because it was his father’s collection, and his house so he should leave it the way, which his father would have wanted it to be. ‘Mr Joseph Hooper had said that the animals should be sold, they were not a matter of family pride, they had only been brought in a lot by the first Joseph Hooper.’
Also I think that Joseph wanted his son to have a companion, so he could make friends with him and spend most of his time with him, so Joseph wouldn’t have to look after his son that much or be a parent. ‘Now you will have a companion.’ Joseph Hooper admits to himself that he is a lonely man and that’s why he wanted someone to look after them, so they could have some company and they wanted someone to replace Edmund’s mother. ‘I am a lonely man, he had said, and was not ashamed, afterwards, of having admitted it.’
The writer, Susan Hill informs the readers about Joseph’s childhood and how it affected his growing up. He had spent the time before school and between terms in Warings, but he didn’t like it and he had unhappy memories of Warings. The only reason why he lives here now was to admire his father’s solidity and the gloom. The writer tells us that he was an ‘ineffectual man, without any strength or imposing qualities, a man who was liked and humoured but little regarded, a man who failed. He was a dull man, a man who got by. I know myself and am depressed by what I know.’
Joseph Hooper was very domineering and he never wanted Edmund to be happy and give him what he wanted because, when they moved into Warings. Edmund chose to have a ‘narrow room with a tall window’, but Joseph tried to encourage him to have the ‘old playroom.’
Charles Kingshaw accompanied his mother, Helena Kingshaw to provide companionship for Edmund. Charles is haunted by ‘an extreme fear of life.’ Susan Hill writes that Kingshaw is ‘dominated by terror, and fear is the most appalling emotion to have to live with, day in day out, it is draining, depressing and demoralising.’ We are told from the very beginning of the story that Charles Kingshaw is coming, to stay with them for company and friendship. Susan Hill repeats the vital thing that Kingshaw is coming. ‘I shall soon be doing something about that, you shall have your friend.’ Charles Kingshaw was almost eleven, which was nearly the same age as Edmund. Charles had red hair, he was quite short in height, but looked older than Edmund. There was something about the way he walked, about the cast of his eyes. Susan Hill sees Kingshaw as ‘misfits’, distanced from his mother and unable to form relationships. He is ‘not normal’ but he is an innocent young boy, who has done nothing do deserve the resentment he is going through presently. Kingshaw is also like the over sensitive prey.
Charles Kingshaw didn’t want to come to stay with the Hoopers, and he thought that it was a strange house in which they didn’t belong in. ‘I didn’t want to come, I didn’t want to come, and it is one more strange house in which we do not properly belong.’ When Edmund gave a message saying, ‘I DON’T WANT YOU TO COME HERE,’ on a piece of scrap paper Kingshaw stuffed the message fearfully into his trouser pocket. This already gives us an outlook of his character, and the readers know straight away that he is a very terrified child.
After Edmund saying to him, ‘Why have you come here?’ his face flushed brick red and he didn’t reply back to his question. It is like Kingshaw is bowing down to Edmund with his behaviour. When Edmund was just walking round the table, towards the window, Kingshaw was so scared that he stepped back as he came. Edmund called him a ‘Scaredy!’ Kingshaw has the lower hand and he answers his questions as straight ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers, or gives a very simple reply. He was very sensitive about the fact when Edmund asked him, ‘Why didn’t your father buy you a proper house?’ Kingshaw stood up and said that his father was dead, he wasn’t angry or hurt but he just wanted to get that fact clear. He intended to put his fists up to Hooper but he dared not to.
Kingshaw tells us that his father was a pilot once and he was in the Battle of Britain. He searches through the ‘tartan suitcase,’ to show Edmund a picture, but Edmund didn’t believe him and says that he’s a ‘liar, the Battle of Britain was in the war.’ Charles says that his father died when he was only about five or six, and shows Edmund a picture. He was somehow desperate for Edmund to see the picture so that he could believe him. ‘He felt that he must make some mark on this house, must be believed about something.’ His father was a bald, cadaverous man with a mole on his chin. He told Edmund that he was in the Battle of Britain when he was twenty in the war. Charles thought that he had won, but he did not feel the winner; this was odd and it proved that he was a rather strange child. He thought that Edmund had conceded him nothing. Charles thought that it was wrong for him to start unpacking straight away, because it would seem like it was final and as though they had accepted the fact that they were going to stay there, as though there were a future to be considered. Charles confronted Edmund clearly and said, ‘You needn’t think I wanted to come, anyway.’ Edmund was a very short-tempered, ill-mannered boy because Charles just said to him, ‘You’d better shut the window, it’s my window now,’ and Edmund thought that it was the ‘new note’ in his voice and ‘hearing the tremor of anxiety,’ Edmund raised his fists and punched him on his nose. The punch was ‘brief, wordless and violent.’ Kingshaw wiped his bloody nose and then looked at the handkerchief, his heart was thumping because he had never fought another boy like that before. He was starting to think how the future would be like now.
It is clear now, that Charles doesn’t like Edmund because he wished that he would leave him alone and go, as he was standing beside the window. Kingshaw is a very agitated character, because he keeps repeating the fact that, ‘You needn’t think I wanted to come here, you needn’t think I like it.’ Kingshaw thought that there was some kind of ‘truce’ between Edmund and Kingshaw, as he had come prepared to get on with Hooper like he got on with most people. Susan Hill tells us that Charles thought that it was safer to get on with people because he was a vulnerable, innocent character to let himself indulge in the making of enemies. Charles couldn’t put anything into words to tell Edmund that he didn’t want to come here, he didn’t like it, he didn’t want to stay and he wanted to be somewhere by himself because they always lived in somebody else’s place. Charles was even willing to put himself out, and he would do whatever Hooper wanted and would acknowledge him as master of his own territory. It was a ‘series of feelings’ and he was very confused with his life.
Charles let out his emotions with a hard, long, sorrow cry though without making any sound and he tried to swallow hard to stop himself, but he couldn’t. There was nothing that he would say, because there was no one to say it to. This shows that he is a very clinical character and keeps things bottled up, he suffers in silence if he is unhappy, because he feels that he can’t talk to his mother, but he would talk to his father about his feelings. Kingshaw was very fearful about his bedroom, because it was the bedroom, which Edmund’s grandfather had died in.
Charles took some interest in the conservatory, poking into the geranium pots with a cane; he liked the conservatory. He liked it because nobody seemed to come here, and he wanted to be independent and have his freedom because his mother and him had always lived with someone, and as he was growing up to his teenage years, he wanted to have space and time to think. When Edmund decided to give him a tour round the house, Charles lost interest and he decided to stop following behind him, and he sat down on the bottom step of the back staircase. He liked it in the dark because it was cool. Initially, he intended to get away from Hooper because he wanted to find a stream or a wood by himself. ‘Anything to get away.’ Kingshaw wanted to explore the area he was living in now, so he went to the fields to get away from the house and to get some peace. He comes across a crow and moths, which symbolise his fear and terror he is currently going through. Susan Hill tries to tell us that young children have taken their own lives as a result of bullying and she believes that the ‘only peace and resolution Kingshaw can find is in death.’ He is always left alone and his helpless, because he has no support or anyone to sympathise or listen to him.
We are not given a thorough outline of Helena Kingshaw, but I will give a general outline of her character. Susan Hill describes Mrs Kingshaw and Mr Hooper as ‘rather two-dimensional characters’; nevertheless have a dramatic impact on events. Mrs Kingshaw has come to act as an ‘informal housekeeper’ to Mr Joseph Hooper and his son, Edmund, but her real role and that of her son is to provide companionship for these two rather lost souls. The Kingshaws have fallen on unlucky times and the money and stability that Warings offers to Mrs Kingshaw is welcome. Mrs Kingshaw is a middle class person; she has a social and family background as her domestic abilities. Mrs Kingshaws sends ‘graceful’ letters to the Hoopers. She was an honest woman and has a light tone. She was widowed and she was thirty-seven years of age. She thinks that ‘Warings’ was a home that they had been looking for; she judges this by its name. She had spent some years been mostly alone. When the Kingshaw’s arrived at Warings she wore a jade green suit and worried about it, for fear that it was too smart. She was very anxious to see what Charles had found on the floor, because she wanted him to like it here and feel at home.
Mrs Kingshaw has very poor parenting skills as well; she doesn’t spend time with her son or talk to him, that’s why Kingshaw finds it difficult to confide in his own mother. This could be ignored if only if she wasn’t so wrapped up in herself. She fails to notice the animosity that exists between her son and Edmund. She should have asked Kingshaw if he was happy here, if he was settling in okay, and if he was getting on with Edmund. She is also a very flirtatious character and she thinks that she will be flirtatious, to Joseph Hooper so that they can get married, and she can have his money and a stable home to live in. She has a very bright and hopeful expression. She doesn’t want things to go wrong because she doesn’t want to waste her time, and she wants everyone to be happy.
Edmund is the main character in the novel, who is a disturbed troublesome eleven year old. He continually taunts Kingshaw and has an uncanny ability to follow Kingshaw anywhere; which is a feature that gives him a kind of satanic quality. Charles and Edmund both attend boarding schools, which gives them the kind of shared experience, which could lead to the development of friendship. Edmund is a ‘misfits’ character because he is distanced from his father, and is unable to form relationships, and he is ‘not normal’ and an ‘odd’ child. Edmund is a cowardly bully and it is not made very clear exactly why Edmund feels that, ‘Nobody should come’ to Warings, we are left puzzling and angered over his malice towards Kingshaw and astonished by the many forms this malice takes. Edmund is an isolated child, ‘misfits’ as Susan Hill calls him. He has suffered the death of his mother and he has been subjected to lengthy absences from home when he was away at boarding school. I don’t think that this experience was good for a young boy like him, despite the commonly held view that deprivation would ‘make a man’ out of them. Hooper is a damaged character and a spiteful hunter. Also Edmund has lack of communication with his father, and doesn’t talk to him about his feelings and that’s why he is the way he is now. He is a child of his own and he keeps himself to himself.
The first impression we get of Edmund is that he says, ‘I am never afraid.’ He wasn’t afraid to see his grandfather, who was dying. This shows that he is a bully, afflicting and he can intimidate pain. Edmund is an attached and typical character who likes to keep what he’s thinking and feeling inside himself. He is a character who is like his mother; he has the same way of not bothering to explain and makes secrets. He also has the same hardness and cool way of looking. When Edmund was away at boarding school there was some long spells where he couldn’t remember how his mother looked like. Edmund has an egotistical nature and he looks at things in an unnatural way, because when his father was telling him about the history of Warings, he wasn’t engaged by it. He just looked at it, as an ‘ordinary, ugly house, nothing to boast of.’ He was only pleased that it was his and it had family history. He is also a very determined character because he was desperate to find the key to get into the Red Room.
I would say that Edmund was a standoffish character because he hardly said two words to his father, he was impassive and impertinent. He patronises Charles and is pompous towards him and domineering because of his ‘dares.’ He is conceited like his father and humble. Edmund is slapdash because he doesn’t care about anyone but himself, and he doesn’t care how severely he is hurting Charles. He is vindictive, ruthless, callous and amoral. He was a very odd character and has reasons for hating things, like he hated the collection in the Red Room, ‘violently.’ He feigned interest, acquired knowledge and disguised his fear when he went every holiday in the Red Room. Edmund is a cheeky character because he answers back to his father and doesn’t listen to him, and his father doesn’t care so that’s why he’s a bully now.
Recently, Edmund had wondered if he ought to feel his own mother’s absence because he wanted things, which only she could provide. He was unable to imagine what these things might be, and he remembered nothing about her. Edmund hated it when his father said to him, ‘But you must come to me and tell me about things, you must not be afraid to admit when something is wrong.’ He didn’t like the way, which he talked to him and wanted him to stop and keep his ‘ears out.’ This means that he was not use to his father telling him to talk to him, and he was used to him minding his own business and giving him the privilege to do what he wanted to. He was use to been a child of his own because he was at boarding school most of the time.
He is a very snobbish and pretentious character because he kept saying over and over again to himself, ‘It is my house, it is private, I got here first. Nobody should come here.’ It wasn’t his house yet he had boasted on so much that he had got the wrong idea, he thought that it was his house, when his father said, ‘This will all belong to you.’ He was the kind of character who didn’t want to give anything of himself away, meaning he didn’t want Charles to know anything about him, his personally, hobbies etc. He wanted to ignore the boy, warn him off or evade him. ‘It depended on what he was like.’ Edmund manipulates Kingshaw when he makes the plasticine Battlefield. He scares Kingshaw about his grandfather’s death so he can disappear. He is common, superior to Charles and taunts him in his class, style, power and devalues him just because he is slightly a lower class and has no where else to go. He makes stamps and acts as if he rules Kingshaw. This was mainly due to his father’s conceited and humble character, because Edmund had seen his father go around the house clutching the ‘big bunch of keys.’ This gave him the impression that they were the only people that lived here, it was theirs and they belong here, so Kingshaw has nowhere. Edmund is the ‘perpetrator,’ which means that he is performing and is responsible for the treacherous, sly and immoral bullying. He is the one who is assertive and asks questions about Charles father and occupation.
Edmund was desperate to see if Kingshaw’s father was a greater man of status than him. He was jealous that his father was in the Battle of Britain war, when they were not that wealthy. He wanted his father to make a name of himself. ‘He threw the photograph down into the suitcase.’
Hooper has a very short temper when Charles said, ‘You’d better shut the window, and it’s my window now.’ He didn’t like his new tone, and so he punched him with his fist on his nose. ‘The scrap was brief, wordless and violent.’ He attacked Kingshaw in an ugly way. It was quick and sharp and it had a huge impact, because Kingshaw was very agitated about it. He didn’t even apologise for it, but Kingshaw should have fought back. Anything and everyone scares Kingshaw and that bottles things up for him and he buries everything inside him without talking to anyone or writing things down; this is want tempts him to committing suicide. ‘You needn’t think you’ve got to stick about the place with me,’ I’ve got my own things to do.’ He is domineering Kingshaw and acting as if he’s the boss or his father. ‘You do what I say, I’ll bash you again, just watch it.’ He wants to grow up too quickly and he’s been like a father Joseph should be; Joseph should treat his son how Edmund is treating Kingshaw. Hooper can be a self-possessed child. He has a very ‘upper hand and insolence,’ when he talks to his father and he has a supercilious expression. He thinks that Kingshaw should obey him, because it’s his house and they are like a lower class because they have moved from place to place, and they have never had a stable family or home. He is also like the leader, and he wants Kingshaw to bow down to him. He is also a liar because he has a mocking face while saying, ‘Don’t I always do what my father says?’ He is proud of himself and starts to chant. ‘You were told to follow me.’
I think that in a way Edmund envies Kingshaw because he has a mum and that’s why he teased him. ‘Did if frighten Mummy’s baby boy?’ He threatens Hooper and tells him to ‘watch it,’ because he’s turning into a ‘rude boy’ and ‘cocky.’ He also dares him to see if he will obey him or not. He was suspicious about Kingshaw; he wanted to know what was going on inside his head. He likes to frighten Kingshaw, and as soon as he gets ideas in his head, he is filled with excitement. He is not used to been a bully, ‘he was trying it out,’ just ‘learning.’ He had bullies at school, but he wasn’t like them. I think that this had an influence on Edmund and that’s why he wants to bully Kingshaw to take all his isolation out on not having a mother or nobody to talk to; he feels locked up inside. I think that he was also bullied at school, because Susan Hill tells us that, ‘he couldn’t cope with them.’ He was been bullied so he wanted to see how it was like himself to be a bully. This wasn’t a very pleasant thing to do, because he knew himself how it felt to be a victim but he still carried on. The bullies had ‘simple, and transparent minds.’ He acted ‘cool’ and he said that the bullies didn’t bother him, because he had ways of ‘dealing’ with them. Hooper was a ‘clever, unpredictable and inventive’ character.