I’m the King of the Castle

I’m the King of the Castle Chapter 14 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
A few days later, Helena tells Charles that she’ll be going back to the hospital. Mrs. Boland will take care of Charles again. Charles works on a jigsaw puzzle and acknowledges his mother’s statements will a simple “Yes” or “All right.” Helena suggests that Charles visit Edmund tomorrow, but Charles says “I’m not going.”
Charles has given up on trying to convince his mother of the truth about Edmund’s fall. In this way, his situation becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: Helena never learns what happened largely because Charles accepts that she’s never going to understand what happened.
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Alone, Charles thinks about a boy named Fenwick. The two of them went to school around the same time, and Charles wanted to be friends with Fenwick, even though Fenwick ignored him. But one day, Fenwick slipped and fell down a hill, cutting himself badly. Charles said that he’d go get the Matron, even though Fenwick told him, “Shut up … don’t be stupid.” Charles followed Fenwick into the Matron’s office, and the Matron didn’t tell him to leave, assuming that he was Fenwick’s friend. While Fenwick rested, Charles asked him if he was hurt, but Fenwick just said, “Shut up, stupid.”
In the past, Charles’s attempts to make friends have been unsuccessful. He wants to be Fenwick’s buddy, but he just winds up annoying Fenwick—in part because he is caring, a trait which other boys see as a sign of weakness. This partly explains why Charles so often seems lonely and isolated: he’s never had a lot of friends, and when he’s alone, his imagination runs wild.
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Helena suggests that Charles buy Edmund a “little present” with his pocket money. Charles refuses and says, “I hate Hooper. He’s a baby and a bully and I hate him.” He adds that he wishes Edmund had died in the fall.
Charles keeps digging his own grave. Instead of trying to communicate the truth to Helena, he gives up and engages in childish-sounding mockery, confirming what Helena initially suspected: that Charles was somehow responsible for Edmund’s fall.
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Charles spends most of the week alone, making a model of a fort. Mrs. Boland brings him drinks and meals, and in general “it was all right.”
Charles is fairly happy, but his happiness is tempered by his awareness that Edmund is going to come home soon.
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Helena tells herself that Charles is saying unpleasant things about Edmund because he’s shocked. She forces herself not to worry. Joseph advises her to remain calm, and adds, “You should make time for yourself and for your own interests and pleasures, apart from those of your son.” Helena aims to treat Edmund like her own son.
As before, Helena claims that she’s trying to treat Edmund and Charles equally, when in effect she gravitates toward Edmund and away from her biological child. The further implication is that Helena is behaving in this way partly to ingratiate herself with Joseph so that she can become his wife.
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Charles completes the jigsaw puzzle he’s been working on, and then breaks it up into pieces. The puzzle came from Edmund’s room, and so he’s careful to return it to its proper place. He’s sure that Edmund will know that he used the jigsaw puzzle. Then, Charles goes outside, where he takes a stick and beats “the heads off the tall plants of cow parsley.” He wishes things could always be like this, and tries not to think of “anything terrible that was to come.”
Charles senses that Edmund will be coming home soon, and he tries to distract himself with aggressive, dreamily destructive behavior. Hill suggests that Edmund’s spitefulness and violence have begun to influence Charles to behave similarly.
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In the hospital, Edmund, who has a broken leg, plays board games with Helena. He’s pleased that Helena comes to visit him every day, since it means she’d rather be with him than with her own son. However, he doesn’t like Helena very much.
As before, Edmund seems to have a highly adult understanding of the politics behind his relationship with Helena. He’s interested in using Helena to assert his power over Charles, rather than actually enjoying his time with her.
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Charles wanders through the area outside Warings, and comes to a church. Inside, on the red carpet by the altar rail, he prays to God, saying, “I did mean it, only now I don’t mean it, I want to take it back and never to have thought and said it … I am trying to be sorry.” But Charles also senses that he “still meant it.” He’s only praying for forgiveness because he’s afraid of the dark, empty church. He fears Edmund, he decides, more than he fears anything.
This passage epitomizes Hill’s view of childhood. Charles wants to be a good child, but he can’t deny that he has some innate, aggressive instincts. In other words, he sincerely wants Edmund to be hurt. Perhaps much the same could be said for children in general: they may or may not want to be good, but they’re possessed of the potential for destruction.
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Suddenly, a voice says, “What’s the matter with you?” A boy with a “small, brown face” insists that Charles isn’t allowed to go past the altar rail. He asks if Charles lives with the Hoopers, and says that he’s seen Charles drive by in a green car. The boy asks Charles if he wants to see the turkeys that “came this morning.” Charles says that he does. As they walk out of the church, Charles notices that the boy’s fingernails are very dirty.
Right away, Hill portrays the boy as being rougher and more working-class than Edmund—in other words, he has a lot more in common with Charles than with Edmund. The boy’s friendly offer to show Charles the turkeys provides a contrast to Edmund’s attempts to intimidate Charles with the stuffed crow.
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A van drives by, and the boy nods to the man inside. It occurs to Charles that this boy has been watching him the entire time he’s been at Warings. Charles and Edmund have been “on the moon” while, all along, there’s been a whole world outside of their fraught dynamic.
Spending time with another child makes Charles feel less imprisoned. He realizes that maybe Edmund doesn’t have as much psychological power over him as he’d thought if he can get away from Warings and spend time with other people whenever he wants.
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The boy challenges Charles to a mock-naval battle. He shows Charles how to break the heads off of some old plantains, and the two boys throw the plantain heads back and forth. The boy introduces himself as Fielding. He runs down the road and shouts for Charles to follow him. Fielding explains that there’s a cow giving birth to a calf in the barn near Fielding’s house. He asks if Charles wants to see. Charles looks uncomfortable and Fielding says, “You needn’t, if you don’t like it.” Charles realizes that Edmund would have teased him and called him a baby. Charles says, “I’m all right,” and the two boys enter the barn.
Fielding is the opposite of Edmund. Where Edmund shows Charles his property and possessions with the intention of intimidating Charles, Fielding shows Charles around his farm in an effort to be friendly and engaging. He allows Charles to make his own decisions rather than pressuring him to compete for dominance.
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Charles witnesses the calf’s birth. He feels sick, but he also tells himself that he won’t be sick, and that he’s not afraid. He also notices that Fielding is “sitting back on his heels.” Fielding then takes Charles to see the turkeys in the barn, and explains that his family always kills the turkeys at Christmas. He offers to show Charles his hamster, and Charles agrees, overwhelmed by this “battery of experience” but still willing to see everything.
The passage underscores Hill’s point that fear is a product of intimidation and anticipation, and not the product of objects being innately “fearsome.” When Edmund shows Charles moths, for example, he uses physiological manipulation to strike fear into Charles’s heart. But when Fielding shows Charles equally unusual things, he doesn’t try to manipulate Charles in any way, and as a result Charles is slightly grossed out but not particularly frightened.
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Fielding introduces Charles to his mother, and asks his mother if Charles can stay for dinner—she smiles and says that he can. Charles thinks, “This is how you ought to be.” Fielding offers to let Charles ride his bike back to Warings to ask Mrs. Boland if he, Charles, can stay for dinner at the Fieldings’ house. Charles rides back to Warings, where he finds Helena. Helena tells him that Edmund is coming home tomorrow.
Charles is clearly comparing Fielding’s mother to his own: he wants a parent who treats him with kindness and hospitality. But the happy day comes to an abrupt close when he learns that Edmund is coming home soon. The question becomes: will Charles’s new friendship help him overcome his fear of Edmund?
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Later that day, Charles is with Fielding. Charles explains how he ran away into Hang Wood. Fielding is impressed that Charles went into the wood by himself, and adds that even his older brother wouldn’t have done so. Charles explains that Edmund Hooper met him there, and Fielding asks Charles if he’s frightened of Edmund—Charles hesitates and then says, “yes.” Fielding points out that Edmund can’t “do anything to Charles.” Charles knows Fielding is right, but he can’t make Fielding see the “terribleness” of living with Edmund. Fielding invites Charles to spend more time with him, adding, “You oughtn’t to let everybody boss you around so much.” Charles begins to think about school, and wonders if he’ll be able to tell the students about how Edmund peed his pants. He thinks to himself, “Fielding is mine, this is all mine.”
Fielding celebrates Charles for his bravery instead of minimizing it, as Edmund has tried to do. Charles knows that Fielding is absolutely right—Edmund doesn’t have any real power over him—but he still can’t stop himself from feeling afraid of Edmund. Charles seems to be beginning to give in to the same desire for power and control that characterizes Edmund when he says that Fielding is his. This only reiterates Hill’s point that children aren’t inherently good—even seemingly gentle children like Charles still have selfish, power-hungry instincts.
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The next day, Edmund does not come home, because he has a fever. Charles spends the day with Fielding. He imitates the way Fielding sucks a straw, noting, “He must look and talk like Fielding, he must be like Fielding.”
Charles wants to get over his fear of Edmund, and thinks that he can do so by imitating Fielding, a confident boy who seemingly isn’t frightened of anything.
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