A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

Stephen Character Analysis

Toph’s babysitter. Stephen is from England, Scotland, or Ireland—Eggers can’t remember which. When he comes to babysit Toph one night, Eggers is delighted to have a night of freedom, but this excitement quickly turns into a sharp sense of fear. As he drives away, he becomes convinced that Stephen will murder, molest, or kidnap Toph, and he isn’t able to shake this feeling until he returns home late that night and sees that nothing has happened.

Stephen Quotes in A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

The A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius quotes below are all either spoken by Stephen or refer to Stephen. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Self-Consciousness and Meta-Narration Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius published in 2001.
Chapter 5 Quotes

Then, at the moment that I am turning the corner, I become convinced, in a flash of pure truth-seeing—it happens every time I leave him anywhere—that Toph will be killed. Of course. The baby-sitter was acting peculiar, was too quiet, too unassuming. His eyes had plans. Of course. So obvious from the beginning. I ignored the signals. Toph had told me Stephen was weird, repeatedly had mentioned his scary laugh, the veggie food he brought and cooked, and I just shrugged it all off. If something happens it’ll be my fault. He will try bad things on Toph. He will try to molest Toph. While Toph is sleeping he will do something with wax and rope. The possibilities snap through my head like pedophilia flashcards—handcuffs, floorboards, clown suits, leather, videotape, duct tape, knives, bathtubs, refrigerators—

Toph will never wake up.

Related Characters: Dave Eggers (speaker), Toph Eggers, Stephen
Page Number: 125
Explanation and Analysis:
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[…] maybe they’d just be sitting around, at Moodie’s usually, watching cable, getting ready, and I would be there, on the couch, with a beer from the fridge, savoring every minute, not knowing when it would come again, and they would be casual, having no idea what it meant to me, even when I’d be a little manic about it all, a little overeager, laughing too much, drinking too quickly, getting another from the fridge, no problem, okay, hoping for something to happen, hoping we’d go somewhere good, anything to make the night count, make it worth it, justify the constant red/black worry, the visions—I felt so detached sometimes, went for weeks at a time without really being around people my age, like living in a country where no one understands your words[.]

Related Characters: Dave Eggers (speaker), Toph Eggers, Moodie, Stephen
Page Number: 127
Explanation and Analysis:
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Stephen Character Timeline in A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

The timeline below shows where the character Stephen appears in A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 5
Coming of Age, Parenthood, and Responsibility Theme Icon
...to collect donations. When Toph opens the door, though, Eggers remembers that the man is Stephen, Toph’s new babysitter. A Berkeley student from England, Scotland, or Ireland—Eggers can’t remember—Stephen is a... (full context)
Coming of Age, Parenthood, and Responsibility Theme Icon
Death, Humor, and the Worst-Case Scenario Theme Icon
Guilt and Poetic License Theme Icon
...will be killed,” he writes. In his head, he runs through all the signs that Stephen is a sick, twisted murderer. “If something happens it’ll be my fault,” he notes. “The... (full context)
Coming of Age, Parenthood, and Responsibility Theme Icon
Death, Humor, and the Worst-Case Scenario Theme Icon
...terrifying possibilities. “Where is he?” John asks, and Eggers explains that he’s at home with Stephen. After this conversation, Eggers begins to feel disappointed in the night, thinking, “I’ve risked everything... (full context)
Death, Humor, and the Worst-Case Scenario Theme Icon
Identity Theme Icon
Guilt and Poetic License Theme Icon
...of teenagers. As he approaches his house, he thinks again about all the terrible things Stephen has probably done to Toph. Inside, though, he finds Toph asleep on the couch. After... (full context)