In this essay, I will be examining the main character in Robert Westall’s ‘Kingdom By The Sea,’ Harry Baguely. The novel is set in the middle of the Second World War and follows Harry’s journey up the north coast of Northumberland. I will be showing the development of Harry’s personality from when he was a bright-faced, clean 11-year-old right through to the end of the novel when he becomes a grubby-faced but emotionally mature 12 years old.
Throughout Harry’s journey, he has experienced many negative events, the first being the bombing of his house and the apparent killing of his family, – his mum, dad and little sister Dulcie. After this incident Harry was left with nothing but an attachï¿½ case and memories so the way he acts after this makes me think he is emotionally scarred as shown by the few days Harry wandered around the streets aimlessly; ‘The next time he found himself again he found he was in Rudyerd Street.’ This displays the impact of his family’s deaths and the emotions he went through.
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Because Harry was left to fend for himself, his character changed enormously as he picked up the pieces of his life. This is demonstrated when he lies to the Fish and Chip shop owner and his customers; ‘he almost ran out of answers and sweated.’ This adds to our knowledge that Harry is changing because before his desperation he would not have lied to any grown-up.
Much later on in the novel, Harry comes across a nasty character called ‘Corporal Merman,’ who at first Harry did not understand and did not know how to respond to, but after a while, Harry realizes Merman is some sort of pedophile or another. Harry felt uncomfortable around Merman, as demonstrated when Merman arrived at the pillbox where Harry was temporarily living; ‘Harry covered his bare legs up as he realized it was Merman.’
From this evidence, it is clear that Harry dislikes Merman and knows what Merman’s ‘game’ is. Don the dog – Harry’s companion – was always the one who saved Harry from danger but in the situation with Merman, Don was not around to defend Harry. Harry felt defenceless without Don, for example, ‘When he called for Don and Don did not come his stomach seemed to sink down inside him.’ This adds to our picture of Harry’s more vulnerable side and the strong friendship of Harry and Don shown at certain points in the novel.
As well as negative experiences there are also many happy, positive events throughout Harry’s journey, one of them being Harry meeting Mr Murgatroyd. Harry’s behaviour towards Mr. M. shows us that at first Harry was shy around Mr. M. but gradually gained confidence. Harry’s shyer side is portrayed when Don visited the vets; ‘Without Don Harry suddenly felt very embarrassed.’ Harry’s timid personality has not been shown very much throughout the book because when Don is around Harry, he gives Harry composure.
I feel one of the happiest moments in the book is when Don finds Harry on the beach when Harry is trying to ‘pull himself together; ‘Harry heard an explosive snort and saw a big, black, shaggy dog sitting in front of him.’ This is an important stage in the novel as Harry realizes he would never be completely alone again.
Overall, Harry has been through a lot – good times and bad – and has emotionally matured a lot, so much so that when he was reunited with his family he felt they wouldn’t be able to have the same relationship they had before. Harry has learnt how to survive alone on the streets and in the long term, I think this was a good experience for him because now he knows the only way to survive on the streets with no money is by doing the things he never would have done normally.
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