The Fifth Child

by

Doris Lessing

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John Character Analysis

A big, shaggy, amiable young man who is hired by the Lovatts first to do yard work and then to watch Ben in the hours when he is not in school. Ben takes a strong liking to John, who (though patient and sweet) treats Ben roughly, as though he is training a puppy. Ben seems to like this treatment, and John invites him along to hang out with his gang of friends, riding on motorbikes and hanging out at the café. John begins to manipulate the situation a bit, asking for cash to take Ben (and the rest of the gang) on outings, and Harriet complies, happy to have Ben out of the house. Johns’s gang of friends, accept Ben as a mascot of sorts, though the names they call him seem cruel: “Dopey, Dwarfey, Alien Two, Hobbit, and Gremlin.” Eventually Ben is disappointed when John and his friends move away to attend a vocational school.
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John Character Timeline in The Fifth Child

The timeline below shows where the character John appears in The Fifth Child. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Pages 74 – 96
Nature vs. Nurture Theme Icon
Idealism vs. Pragmatism Theme Icon
Conformity and Otherness Theme Icon
Biological Families vs. Nontraditional Families Theme Icon
Happiness vs. Contentment Theme Icon
...before Ben left, except for Ben’s distrust of David. Harriet hires a young man named John to come help clean up the garden, and Ben takes a liking to him immediately.... (full context)
Nature vs. Nurture Theme Icon
Idealism vs. Pragmatism Theme Icon
Conformity and Otherness Theme Icon
Biological Families vs. Nontraditional Families Theme Icon
Happiness vs. Contentment Theme Icon
John arrives each morning to pick up Ben on his motorbike. Family life is improved if... (full context)
Nature vs. Nurture Theme Icon
Idealism vs. Pragmatism Theme Icon
Conformity and Otherness Theme Icon
Biological Families vs. Nontraditional Families Theme Icon
Happiness vs. Contentment Theme Icon
...Ben home. Among the guests is Deborah, newly divorced. Ben has become a mascot for John’s group of friends, treating Ben roughly, ordering him about, calling him “Dopey, Dwarfey, Alien Two,... (full context)
Pages 96 – 133
Idealism vs. Pragmatism Theme Icon
Conformity and Otherness Theme Icon
Biological Families vs. Nontraditional Families Theme Icon
...to school, despite it being clear he isn’t very good at proper learning. Harriet asks John try to reason with Ben and John tells Ben that all of the gang went... (full context)
Idealism vs. Pragmatism Theme Icon
Biological Families vs. Nontraditional Families Theme Icon
...of this possibility and he walks away, leaving behind a trail of urine. Harriet summons John to talk to Ben, and Ben leaves with John after he talks Ben into behaving... (full context)
Nature vs. Nurture Theme Icon
Conformity and Otherness Theme Icon
Biological Families vs. Nontraditional Families Theme Icon
Happiness vs. Contentment Theme Icon
...house with her at the end of the visit. Ben spends all his time with John. David works longer hours. Paul remains home, but is even more difficult than Ben, though... (full context)
Conformity and Otherness Theme Icon
Biological Families vs. Nontraditional Families Theme Icon
John tells the Lovatts that he and his friends are leaving for a job-training school in... (full context)
Idealism vs. Pragmatism Theme Icon
Conformity and Otherness Theme Icon
Biological Families vs. Nontraditional Families Theme Icon
...comes home with a friend, a fifteen-year-old named Derek who reminds Harriet very much of John. She wonders why Derek puts up with Ben, who is so much younger, but she... (full context)