I’m the King of the Castle

I’m the King of the Castle Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Susan Hill's I’m the King of the Castle. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Susan Hill

Susan Hill was born in Scarborough, a town that serves as the setting for several of her novels. She studied at the local Catholic girl’s school, and at the age of sixteen, she and her family moved to Coventry, a much larger city. During her teen years, she penned a novel titled The Enclosure, which was published the same year that she began studying at King’s College in London. Beginning in the late 1960s, Hill wrote a series of acclaimed novels, including I’m the King of the Castle (1970), The Bird of Night (1972) and Strange Meeting (1974). Hill’s numerous novels have addressed an impressive number of subjects, including war, crime, and childhood; however, her most popular novels are ghost stories or works of crime fiction. Her novella The Woman in Black (1983) was adapted into a famous stage play that has played in London’s West End for more than twenty years. Hill married the Shakespeare scholar Stanley Wells in 1975. She resides in the United Kingdom.
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Historical Context of I’m the King of the Castle

I’m the King of the Castle doesn’t allude to specific historical events. Like many Gothic novels, it seems to exist in a timeless, self-contained world. However, it’s worth examining the history of English property and the English class system in analyzing Hill’s novel. In the first chapter of the book, Hill informs readers that the Hoopers’ manor house, Warings, is relatively new: no more than a few generations old. This would suggest that the Hooper family consolidated its fortunes in the early 19th century. During this era, the British countryside was undergoing monumental changes. In the first half of the 19th century, under the infamous enclosure system, working-class families were evicted from their ancestral lands as wealthier landowners consolidated what had previously been common land for their own benefit. The result was that hundreds of thousands of working-class English families had to migrate to large cities to support themselves. In addition to catalyzing the Industrial Revolution and the shift from a feudalist system to capitalism, the “emptying out” of the English countryside in the 19th century paved the way for rich landowners to physically isolate themselves from the working class on large estates much like the Hoopers’ family property in I’m the King of the Castle. For more on the history of the English countryside in the 19th century, readers might consult the chapters on England in Building European Society: Occupational Change and Social Mobility in Europe by Andrew Miles and David Vincent.

Other Books Related to I’m the King of the Castle

The novel to which I’m the King of the Castle is most frequently compared is William Golding’s Lord of the Flies (1954). Like Hill’s novel, Lord of the Flies is narrated from the point of view of children, but it’s far from a “children’s book.” Instead, both Hill and Golding portray children as violent, psychologically complex, and capable of committing profoundly evil acts. In doing so, both authors use the conceit of a story about children to comment on the inherent darkness of human nature. It’s also important to situate Hill’s novel within the Gothic tradition. Gothic fiction, highly popular in England the 18th and 19th centuries, is usually characterized by an atmosphere of fear, morbidity, and gloom. The first Gothic novel in English is often said to have been Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto (1764), but there are numerous examples from the 19th century: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818), Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1847), and Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw (1898) are often considered works of Gothic fiction. The Gothic also had a rich tradition during the 20th century, including in regions outside of England, such as the American South. William Faulkner’s short story “A Rose for Emily” and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird are two of the most famous 20th century works of fiction by American Southerners to include Gothic elements.
Key Facts about I’m the King of the Castle
  • Full Title: I’m the King of the Castle
  • When Written: 1969
  • Where Written: Stratford-on-Avon and London, England
  • When Published: 1970
  • Literary Period: Neo-gothic
  • Genre: Psychological horror
  • Setting: Warings Manor in the village of Derne in the English countryside
  • Climax: Charles Kingshaw drowns himself
  • Antagonist: Edmund Hooper
  • Point of View: Third person limited, moving between several different characters’ viewpoints (primarily Charles’s and Edmund’s)

Extra Credit for I’m the King of the Castle

“No, but I’ve seen the movie …” Several of Hill’s books have been adapted for the screen. One of the most successful of these was the French film Je suis le seigneur du château, a loose adaptation of I’m the King of the Castle.

Susan lately. In 2013, Susan Hill left her long-time husband, Stanley Wells, and began dating Barbara Machin, a younger television producer. The story, while perhaps not particularly remarkable, nevertheless provided some tabloid fodder in the U.K., where Hill is one of the most famous popular writers.