Nature of the Beast By Janni Howker



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I will start with the good points, one of which is the characters and the way that Janni Howker portrays them. Billy, whose eyes the story is seen through, is a particularly strong and colourful character, and by the end of the first few chapters one feels as if one knows Billy and can sympathise with all the problems he has. Billy, at a young age, is almost forced into being a lot more responsible and mature than he might be in ‘normal’ circumstances. For example, on more than one occasion he undresses his drunken father and puts him to bed; he does this completely of his own accord, which is unusual for a person of his age.

As well as that Billy looks after his Father in other ways; ‘I made you a pot of tea Dad’ and, ‘I’ve made you some breakfast Dad’. That is one of the ways in which the author creates sympathy for Billy. Billy is an imaginative person, he has ambition and plans for the future; he says when referring to the hunt that he wants to undertake to try find the beast; ‘Only been a day dream until now’. The relationship Billy has with his family i. e. Ned and Chunder, is very strong although it may not appear that way to an outsider, such as the social worker who appears towards the end of the book.

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This bond Billy has with his Father and Grandfather may be due to the fact that Billy never knew his mother; furthermore the circumstances in which Billy and Ned live and the problems they face in day to day life may have brought the two much closer together. He is also a likeable and affable boy as is evident from the scene in the fishing tackle shop when another customer whom Billy has never met buys him two tins of bait. Billy’s Father, Ned, would probably seem inadequate but that is proven to be untrue by Janni Howker.

She makes it quite clear that both his Father and his grandfather love Billy. Although Billy does not have a typical upbringing he is supported and Ned does the best that he can for Billy, which given the circumstances must not be easy to do. It would be far easier for Ned to sink into a world where alcohol takes precedence because of his financial problems, redundancy, and loss of his wife, etcetera; Ned, however, hold himself together to the best of his ability. Although he does reasonably often get drunk he can hardly be blamed.

Wouldn’t you in his position? Ned is also a very proud man, after he has lost his job he tells Billy he will find another job because, using his words; “Cowards don’t go on the dole” After those remarks on significant characters, I feel I should important point. The reason I prefer the word important as opposed to good is that the well-written setting supports a plot of which I am not terribly fond. The setting of the moors above Haverston was obviously a deliberate choice as it is such a depressing place to be or live.

The weather in the story is never clement; far from it – it is practically always dismal. A few examples of the nasty weather are – on pages thirty five to thirty seven; ‘rain and darkness, again’, on page sixty two; ‘the snow and the slush’ contribute to a mood of misery, depression and general unhappiness, (I could go on for pages listing examples but while that will increase my word count, it most probably will not increase my marks. )… The weather and the mood of the book have much in common as the story goes on, both – practically always dismal.

The plot is fairly depressing the various themes, redundancy etc. , in the book contribute in an enormous way to this. Some of the themes in the novel reflect the unhappiness and depression felt throughout the book. One of the themes in particular does this rather powerfully; it is redundancy. When ‘Stone Cross’ is finally closed the whole feeling of the book sinks and the characters all seem to become unhappier, even the children whom this might not usually concern before the direct effects (lack of money, depression) begin to become apparent.

It illustrates very well the effect of mass unemployment on a small community. The novel shows that because the majority of the population of Haverstone relied on ‘Stone Cross’ its closure had a detrimental effect on the community. Another of the themes in the novel, which is also one of the more unhappy themes, is poverty. The parts of Haverstone that readers get to see in the book are all poverty stricken. Billy and his family live in poverty that is worsened by the loss of Ned’s job.

Readers are shown that it is not impossible to cope with poverty especially in Billy’s position when he has never experienced anything different. Not all the themes in the book are quite so negative. A sense of freedom is illustrated through Billy’s character, and he has an aspiration towards being a ‘wild man’ living out on the moors on his own and being completely and utterly self-sufficient. ‘Nature of the Beast’ also shows how people cope with family breakdowns, such as, the loss of Billy’s mother, and Mick’s Father’s nervous breakdown.

Tied in with this theme is the idea of family relationships and how they are not always stereotypical, that there is no real set pattern, in the relationship Billy has with his Father and grandfather, which is unusual partly because of the lack of a mother figure in Billy’s life. Possibly due to Billy’s unusual family background or maybe just because of where he lives is remarkably connected with nature and how it works. This might where his wanting to become a ‘wild man’ is derived from. He is not in the slightest bit shy of how nature works, quite the opposite.

However Mick is not that way, he is happy to love nature but only from a distance with out seeing the nitty-gritty. A good example of this is how Mick ‘goes wild’ with Billy’s pellet gun but won’t willingly go near anything he had shot. The illustration on the cover of the book reflects the story and themes of the book very well. The eyes in the smoke rising from ‘Stone Cross’ are a very good metaphor for the beast. They show very well that there is really more than one beast in the story.

The dark colours echo the mood and setting of the novel. Nature of the Beast’ contains a lot more than meets the eye, you have to get into the mind of Billy Coward, and it reveals so much about our lives and of how the beast we need to fight does not roam the moors, but it is inside you and cannot be defeated. Show preview only The above preview is unformatted text This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Barry Hines section.

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