Key Themes

Quick revise
Leadership and Power
  • Mr Hayward is the figure of strong authority in the novel.
  • Stephen’s father seems more laid back and there is no threat to prevent Stephen from going out in the night.
  • Keith, like his father, needs to be in control and Stephen, like his father, is more laid back and seems to like being lead.
  • When power seems to be taken from the leaders they do not like it and will use various methods to try and get it back.
  • Stephen goes through adolescent awakening in the novel.
  • He smokes for the first time and has sexual feelings. He also acts independently and is rebellious, showing the development from child to adult.
  • In many ways he is more independent and grown up than Keith by the end of the novel, but his experiences will have a lasting effect on him at the end.
Narrative Uncertainty
  • Because the narrative comes from an adult looking back at his childhood, it is not always reliable as the memory can fade and all the details given are not totally clear.
  • Sometimes we can see what the young Stephen can’t and other times we are left uncertain as to what it all means.
  • There is an innocence and naivety to Stephen’s narrative which reflects his youth.
War and Conflict
  • The background of the war fits the conflicts that go on in the domestic life of the novel.
  • There is the conflict between Stephen and his parents, Keith and his father, Mr and Mrs Hayward and the police visit Auntie Dee.
  • Stephen also conflicts with Mr and Mrs Hayward in different ways.
  • There is also the class conflict.
  • Stephen also meets conflict in his school life as it seems he has been bullied.