"About a Boy" by Nick Hornby

Engelsk analyse av Nick Hornbys "About a Boy".
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The author of this book is an English novelist and essayist. Nick Hornby was born 17 April 1957. When Hornby writes, he frequently touches upon, often men’s, everyday themes and obsessive behaviours, related to his own interests; sports and music. Nick Hornby writes in a sort of humoristic and entertaining but somewhat serious style, and his works often contain hidden depths. As seen in About a Boy, Fever Pitch and High Fidelity, the books of Mr. Hornby have a distinctive character which is perfectly suited on a cinema canvas.


“About a Boy” which is the title of the book was published in 1998. The title itself could be inspired by the Nirvana song, “About a Girl”. This assumed because the author often refer to the band in the book.


 “About a Boy” is a book dealing with the problems of two widely different persons, both in age and act, but who still is so equally a like each other. The first seven chapters are mainly about the character, Marcus. But you also get to know Will, the middle aged “bachelor” of the book. The author adjusts his perspective by switching between the two main characters. He writes in a personal angle, first Marcus’, then Will’s, then Marcus’, Will’s, and so on. This creates a personal relationship to both of the characters. These two persons, Marcus Bewer and Will Freeman, sort of fill each other up, like a mathematic equation, where two widely different mathematical factors could have the same answer. While twelve-year old Marcus is a precocious boy, who feels displaced and unwell in the modern society, only looking for a friend to talk to, Will is an emotionally undeveloped man in his late thirties, wandering through the everyday with nothing else in his mind than spending the upcoming night with a beautiful woman. But both of the main characters are soon going to find a new meaning, and even better way of living their own lives. The answer to this math piece, could be solved by adding up these two boys, unconscious of their doing, they both helps each other moving on with their lives.


Hornby puts in light the political new-accurate assertion about the claiming which says that boys need a male friend and adviser, but that they don’t need whoever as a father figure. I think that Hornby tries to say through this book that a man, even though if he looks like others on the outside (or not), can idolize himself in peculiar ways, without it being a coward.


Marcus, the oldest twelve-year old boy in the world, is a weird, little, kind of “nerdy” boy with problems both home and at school. This extraordinary boy is absolutely wasted when it comes to hair, clothing and music, and is therefore regarded as the school’s victim of bullying. The main reason to this gives has thanks to Marcus’ mother, who wants Marcus to be independent and think for himself. Although he’s only twelve years old, but habitually acts even older than his own mom. Marcus is exceptionally direct in his speech. When he talks, he doesn’t sound like a normal twelve-year old. Marcus thinks like a grown-up, but in opposition to adults, he also says exactly what he thinks. If someone asks Marcus a question, he’ll burst out the first thing on his mind without considering how it will sound to other. Not until afterwards he’ll maybe think: “Don’t think that was the right thing to say…” This weird kid and his “mum” seem to be very close to each other. Mainly because Marcus doesn’t have any friends, and his hippie-mother, Fiona, doesn’t have any boyfriend. Together Marcus and Fiona watches films and order take-away fast-food in the evenings. Some wouldn’t considerate Fiona as a perfect mother figure (shown later in the book when she tries to commit suicide). She is awfully depressed, and doesn’t have the ability to see that her own son is having a hard time at school. Likewise Fiona watches Marcus as her son, Marcus also have to watch his own mother.


Will on the other hand is an incorrigible, thirty-six year old teen-ager. He cuts his hair right, wears the right clothes, listen to the right music, read the right magazines and goes to the right club. He is rich, single and childless (even though he once in a while invents a son to get his chance with a woman he’s interested in). Will is the bachelor of the story. He’s, from his own view, a trendy and cool bachelor, and does neither do anything else than walk around in the streets of London being nothing else than trendy and cool. Living his life on his own, he’s trying to avoid commitments which could interrupt his everyday living. Will is longing for women constantly, and actually lies quite a few times to get what and who he wants. He’s economical independent, because he’s living of the royalties after his father, who wrote “Santa’s Super Sleigh” which became a giant Christmas hit all over the world. Will is a cynical and untrustworthy man, afraid of the surrounding world.    


Their first meeting with each other, is the same day when Marcus’ mom tries to take her own life. Will is on a date in the park with a girlfriend of Marcus’ mom, which brought Marcus with her. The first actual meeting between Will and Marcus is when Marcus killed a duck with a French toast, and Will defends Marcus against the park keeper. This day is called the Dead Duck Day. But this day wasn’t really about a dead duck, but a nearly dead mom at home. When they return to Marcus’ home, they finds Marcus’ mom unconscious at the sofa, with an empty pillbox and sick all over herself. Marcus reacts pretty calm, but at the same time with anger. This is in my opinion the first turning point of the story. Marcus realizes what it’s all about; her miserable life and him giving her a hard time. My thoughts are that this day symbolizes the starting of many upcoming conflicts surrounding Will and Marcus later in the book.


As mentioned, Marcus is looking for a real friend. After a while Marcus believe he have found one in Will, and do subsequently make various plans and schemes revolving around Will. Marcus figures that his mom need a boyfriend, and when he finds out that Will doesn’t have the son that he made up to get to single mothers, he starts a war of attrition. He forces himself on Will every day after school and Will is too passive to offer any resistance. The two of them develops a friendship, mostly because both have something that the other need.


Sooner Will starts helping Marcus to become more popular at school so that he could make friends. Will gives Marcus a quick course in how to be a twelve-year old boy. In an unconscious way, being together with Marcus and the problems and conflicts that follows, each and every day, helps Will growing up to an adult, and being more mature.


Less than a year later, both Marcus and Will have matured, each in their own particular way.


Marcus, with no help from anyone else than himself, had met Ellie, the rebellion girl from school. Ellie finds the figure of Marcus extremely funny, and the two of them develops a friendly relationship. She copes with his tormentors at school in a particular abrupt way. The meeting with Ellie changes Marcus life. In the early beginning you should believe that Marcus had to change as person to get rid of his problems. But all that was needed was Ellie.


A small detail in the novel, but which is yet containing bigger hidden depths, is the band Nirvana. It is often brought up when the author is writing about Will, but later also Marcus and Ellie. Although Nirvana wasn’t very trendy to children at the school Marcus went to, Ellie was famous. She was scary to the other kids at school, because she stood up for her own rights by being a rebellion, for instance by refusing to take of the Kurt Cobain t-shirt, which she wasn’t allowed to wear. Ellie was cool, and the meeting between Ellie and Marcus is from my point of view the second, but biggest turning point of Marcus’ miserable life. As mentioned, Nirvana is a band that Will also listened to. It makes an unknown connection between him and Ellie, which both are described as cool characters.


What is more, the two are going to stick together: Marcus, who was originally looking for a stepfather, has realized that Will can never be that, but that life goes on and may bring pleasant surprises at any moment; and Will has realized that it is possible to live a carefree life, bring joy to others and be happy at the same time. The root of all the trouble is a classic dysfunctional family of the 1990s.


Will’s turning point is set late in the novel when Will met Rachel. He surprisingly fell in love with her, Marcus helped him understanding how he, as a grown-up man could develop a deeper relationship to other, and to let life in through his cynical and ironic shell. The novel ends when the boys experience a kind of releasing from their own lives.


”About a Boy” is a fiction novel where the strength lies in the personal portrayals more than language and narrative skills. Hornby depicts men’s and boys’ feelings and in proportion to each other with a clarity and credibility which grips the reader. A problem with the book is that the roman is full of women which it’s really hard to get in to. Hornby seems to admire women too much, so that he can’t fully depict them as credible roman characters. Whichever odds, they always survive. In proportion to the men surrounding them, who have all the advantages but who still fall through. Hornby’s women are too good and innocent to be through, and when he manages to put the blind admiration aside and dears to depict women with darker features, they become caricatures because he without exceptions makes them to victims. Hornby blame the man. Women are not capable to mess up neither relationships nor the surroundings. With Hornby all women becomes either angels or pure nightmares, and in this way he makes them powerless.  

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