Posts Tagged ‘Character analysis’

So, as already mentioned in my last post, this reading project was initiated by my English teacher. That means I’ll have specific tasks and assignments to center my posts around.
This one will be focused on our main character, Sam himself, and the general setting of the first chapter. The instructions we were given are the  following:

1. Describe the setting of the story (where and when does it take place?) and find out the perspective in the first chapter (What kind of narrator? How can you tell?
2. Character analysis: Describe Sam as a character. You should:
– find adjectives to describe him
– find quotes in chapter one to support your analysis

Let’s get cracking then!

The Setting: Where does chapter one take place?

Sam is not only the main protagonist of the story, but also the narrator. This chapter does not seem to take place in one specific location. Sam does however mention a few key places which I presume will probably play a larger role in the story later on. Examples of this would be:

  • His home – specifically his own bedroom (in which the object with the highest value to him appears to be his Tony Hawk poster, it’s the only thing from there that he repeatedly mentions)
  • School – he states that he’s no straight A student but that he’s good at art, and will potentially go on to study it at college
  • Grind City –  “… I’d spent most of the day down at Grind City, which as you may or may not know is a skate park a short bus ride from my house…”

Other than that, the only other way I could think to describe the location is that it all seems to place take place in Sam’s head. Reading that, you might think the chapter itself is written as a monologue; it kind of is but it doesn’t really read as one. It reads more like a dialogue – except you’re only hearing one side of the conversation.

It might also be important, when analyzing the setting, to mention that the events he’s recounting are from his past: “This was a couple of years ago…”

Character analysis: Who exactly is Sam?

To be honest, this was quite a difficult question for me to answer, simply because I found Sam to be quite boring.

Why you say?

Well, the only thing he ever seems to be even the tiniest bit passionate about is his skating. Nothing else seems to interest him in the least. Even art, which he implies he intends to study, and therefore implies it is something he is willing to invest his life in, and yet it doesn’t seem to interest him even mildly.
This was something I found rather hard to swallow, as being an artist is something I strongly identify with.

So considering that, if I had to sum up Sam in one word, and were I not to reread the chapter in-depth beforehand, I would probably say disinterested or maybe even apathetic.

However, on rereading the chapter (after suppressing my inner artists rage at his apparent lack of concern towards our craft) I actually discovered that Sam is a lot deeper than I initially thought.

As  already described above Sam is a no straight A student, he is artistic and loves skating.

He is also in many ways what one would consider to be your typical teenager:

  • He stereotypically loves his mother but has difficulty relating to her, “I’m not dissing my mum, but she hasn’t got a clue, really.”
  • He has a general dislike for maths (yes, not all teens hate maths, I know, but it does seem to me that the majority of us don’t find a particularly large amount of joy in it)
  • He’s somewhat estranged from his father and can’t seem get along with his mother’s boyfriend, “Steve, her rubbish boyfriend.” (again, this is by no means the case with all teens but the ‘estranged father figure’ is something that is represented in rather large abundance in todays media; especially in connection to teenagers or characters with troubled pasts)
  • He idolizes an untouchable celebrity (which seems to me to be quite typical in todays culture).

But is he really?

I talk to Tony Hawk, and Tony Hawk talks back.

What’s this? Is he schizophrenic?

No, if you continue reading you’ll discover this:

…my mum bought me a Tony Hawk poster off the internet… and I just got into the habit of telling it things…

Why does he do this?

My theory is that Sam is disconnected from the people around him. Not only that, but we can assume he feels both lonely and isolated from the people around him because he says that his mum bought him the poster so that he has “…somebody else to talk to.” To me it reads as though his mother is the only stable relationship he has.

We know that he has definitely not mentioned anyone from school, on top of that we know that his parents are divorced and that he doesn’t seem to have much of a relationship with his father. In fact, the only time he mentions him in the text, the subtext strongly implies his frustration at him. (“…he was giving us what he ought to have been giving us all the time.”)

Could it be that he’s using the image he has of Tony Hawk as a substitute father figure?

Sam shows extremely obsessive behaviour when it comes to his idol. He has read his autobiography “forty or fifty times” and knows it off by heart thus enabling him to have conversations with him in his head and he only uses the mans own words when he does it. He not only talks to “TH” about skating but goes to him when he has personal problems or wants to ask for advice, instead of consulting his parents.

His behaviour makes me suspect that he is possibly depressed and maybe a little bit disturbed. He on the other hand believes his behaviour to be completely normal:

Who doesn’t talk to someone in their heads? Who doesn’t talk to God, or a pet, or someone they love who has died, or maybe just to themselves?

While I’d agree that it’s true that we all have some form of a discussion partner in our heads, it is in its own way always a version of ourselves, because we can only rationalise out answers, to the extent needed, in our own heads, when they are actually to be found there.
An example for this would be if you were to talk to your granny in your head, of course you’re not actually talking to your granny but to what she symbolizes for you. Perhaps she is your inner wisdom or your voice of inner critic, who knows.

In Sam’s case, he has not only religiously read his book, but can also only accept answers derived from anything that Tony Hawk has actually said. As such he limits himself to these answers and can’t rationalise things out if Tony Hawk hasn’t said something on the subject.

Like I said, not everything TH comes up with is exactly right. It’s not his fault. It’s just that his book isn’t long enough.