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About a Boy

In: English and Literature

Submitted By dasani
Words 1488
Pages 6
Jenny Smith
November 28, 2011
Dr. Min Young Lee
English 121 sec 28

The Coming of Age of the Male Characters in About a Boy

About a boy is a contemporary novel written by the British author Nick Hornby. It incorporates constructs of post-modern writing by bringing into focus the artists, and styles, and prose of the vernacular. The setting of the novel takes place in London in the mid 1990s. About a boy gives a unique perspective of a coming of age story. It follows the coming of age of two boys of two very different ages; Will Freeman 36 years old and Marcus 12. This novel shows the contrast between consumerism and materialism with real interpersonal connections. Will Freeman made the decision to pursue materialism rather than personal friendships, and to live in self-imposed isolation. Will had the ability to buy “cool” clothes, and sunglasses and sneakers, and so was never at a loss for acquaintances. Marcus, on the other hand, felt isolation due to a lack of materialism. Marcus was an outsider in his school in London since he could not have the best “coolest” clothes, shoes, and haircuts and thus was always the target of bullying. However, as the plot progresses, Marcus and Will undergo transformational experiences together to become more connected to the people around them. The transformational experiences of Fiona’s suicide, falling in love, and Marcus’ arrest all culminate in the maturation of Will and Marcus’ and the genesis of interpersonal connections between.
First, Fiona’s suicide causes Marcus to grow much older than his years, and to become in a sense the caretaker in the family. Fiona is Marcus’ mother who had split up with Marcus’ father a few years prior, a factor which had facilitated Fiona’s depression. Marcus had originally thought that his two person family was enough; he didn’t have friends in London, and thus was very socially isolated. He didn’t notice that two was a small family, “he’d always thought that two was a good number” (Hornby 75). Marcus worries about his mother after the suicide attempt and feels like he must always be watching her, out of fear that she would again attempt suicide. Suddenly Marcus realizes that he needed more people in his life, “But he could see the point now: if someone dropped off the edge, you weren’t left on your own” (Hornby 75). Marcus comes to realize the necessity of other people, and he begins to seek out the company of others. At this point Will, however, has just entered Marcus’ life, and watches as an observer as he witnesses Fiona in her unconscious state after they discover her overdose. Will barely lets the gravity of situation enter his mind, “it had all been very interesting but he wouldn’t want to do it every night” (Hornby 71). Even though Will imagined he didn’t care about Marcus’ problems, “No problem was his problem” (Hornby 119), which was Will’s perspective in life. Will kept to his self-isolation and believed material goods were all that was necessary to a happy life.
Yet this event brought Marcus inextricably into Will’s life, as Marcus now visited Will every day after school, “But he has forgotten that he seemed to have no control over his relationship with Marcus and Fiona anyway” (Hornby 141). Will became Marcus’ first friend since he had no one at school, and Will was like a grown up boy, “eventually, when the visits became routine, Will seemed to think they should have proper conversations” (Hornby 113). Once Will makes his albeit feeble attempts at conversation, Will begins to take an interest in Marcus’ life. Will pities the bullying that Marcus endures and attempts to help Marcus and thus becomes involved with Fiona, as they both take on parental figures. The conversations, and the advice shared are examples of Will’s and Marcus’ transformation into desiring interpersonal relationship even if it is as an odd couple. The suicide brings Marcus, his mother Fiona, and Fiona’s friends crashing into Will’s life, and both unknowingly reach out toward one another, as Marcus seeks friendship and Will seeks to help Marcus.
The next experience that alters Will and Marcus is their attraction to a significant other. After Marcus, Fiona, and Fiona’s friends have all entered Will’s life, Will finds he has fallen in love with a single mother named Rachel, “Will fell in love on New Years Eve, and the experience took him completely by surprise” (Hornby 191). At the same time, Marcus falls for Ellie, a tough girl three years older than him. Will had used Marcus as a way of seeming interesting to Rachel, and Marcus came to Will for advice on Ellie. Will’s relationship to Rachel is in a sense completely dependent upon Will’s relationship to Marcus. Rachel upon discovering Will’s relationship to Marcus stated, “You didn’t make it all up about Marcus. You’re involved and you care, and you understand him and you worry about him (Hornby 234). Rachel even gave Will the confidence and the ability to talk with Fiona about her suicidal thoughts and feelings, even though Will had never once attempted such a conversation with anyone. It shows how Rachel caused a change in Will, causing him to care about others even more deeply. Will was able to make himself vulnerable for her, and as such could open up to Fiona. At the same time Marcus’s relationship to Ellie was dependent upon Will, “Will bought him some new glasses and took him to have his hair cut, he discovered through Will a couple of singers he liked who weren’t Joni Mitchell or Bob Marley, singers that Ellie had heard of and didn’t hate” (Hornby 235). Marcus learning about pop culture from Will enabled him to maintain friendship with Ellie, and even transform that feeling into desire for Ellie as a girlfriend. This shows Marcus’ transformation from a lonely existence to actually cherishing a connection with another person. For Marcus and Will, having a connection to each other had brought more people into their life; their experiences bring both Marcus and Will closer and closer to the other people in their lives.
Marcus’ arrest was the final experience that brought Will into Marcus life, and nurtured their transformation into interpersonal connections. Will’s first reaction upon hearing of Marcus’s arrest was anxiety, and a need to ensure Marcus’ safety, “suddenly Will was fearful. He had never any kind of intuition or empathy or connection in his life before, but he had it now” (Hornby 272). This apparent weakness brought a strength to Will, in his readiness to help Fiona and Ellie’s mother. Will had finally solidified his feeling that connecting with people was good, and it was enjoyable, “The atmosphere between them had changed: somewhere among the popping cans and rustling potato chip bags they seemed to have become a trio” (Hornby 286). At the same time, this moment made Marcus realized a certain strength in deciding who he wanted to be in his life, like a pyramid of people to support him. Marcus found he was able to decide he didn’t want Ellie to be his girlfriend anymore. He was able to speak to his dad honestly, about not needing him in his life, “you’d have been a useless father wherever you were living” (Hornby 281). Marcus made the decision that he would ultimately choose who to rely on, because he did not want to be let down, “Will could do the little things and his mum, but his dad was out of it” (Hornby 296). Will had a unexpected appreciation for Marcus, an understanding that Marcus had brought good people into his life, “he had this knack of creating bridges wherever he went” (Hornby 286). Will had grown up, and Marcus had become a kid- Will was vulnerable now where Marcus was strong. They both matured emotionally and became stronger people.
In the end, both Marcus and Will were benefited by their connections to people around them. Will had fallen in love, and Marcus was able to live as a normal school boy without being picked on mercilessly. Marcus and Will go through three life changing experiences together, Fiona’s suicide, falling in love, and Marcus’ arrest. Marcus and Will in the beginning of novel are lonely, even if they don’t admit it to themselves. They had convinced themselves that their way of life in isolation was acceptable. They lived in a solitary world from anyone else; Will lived that way to protect himself and Marcus because there was no one to accept him. Yet, through their growing relationship, Will and Marcus are able to build connections to other people. The events they experience together were powerful and transformational, and both boys have come of age, and maturity: Marcus has friends and inner strength, and Will finds love and vulnerability.

Works Cited
Hornby, Nick. About a Boy. New York: Riverhead Books, 1998. Print

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