As children, we create whole worlds and narratives in our minds, often replete with monsters and magic. In Neil Gaiman’s novel The Ocean at the End of the Lane we are given one such tale. Viewing the story as fictional, even for the protagonist of the story, one can see parallels to how we remember things the way we want to as opposed to how they may have actually happened. Gaiman tells the story from a child’s perspective, the way the child narrates the story is very different as the details that a child includes the story an adult narrator would have not included in his narration.
In the narration the protagonist seems to forget some of the crucial parts of his story, an example is when he sees his vision on the pond he refers to it as the “ shadow in the Dusk” from the perspective of a child the adults can be able to understand the point the child is trying to put across. In the narration the child also sees some very disturbing things that an adult would not find comfortable to talk about, for example the protagonist spots his father having sex with Ursula. The protagonist cannot be able to tell what is wrong, but he sees that something is not right. An adult can tell the complication of such an action but the young protagonist only knows that what is happening is bad but he cannot tell the velocity or the implication of the matter (Gamin, pg 100).
The protagonist brings out the powerlessness of a child, from the narration one is able to reflect on the vulnerability of the small children. The narrator brings out his helplessness he experienced as a child; the protagonist gives his account of the experience he goes through in the hands of Ursula. In the narration the protagonist brings out the power that women wield and danger in equal measure. Ursula is beautiful which can be very deceptive as no one can associate such a face with danger, but from the child’s perspective one can actually see the dangerous side of Ursula. The protagonist does not talk about her maternal mother but talks of the other mother by the name of Coralline. The brutality that the child undergoes in the hand of Coralline is shocking, the protagonist tries to bring out the true nature of Coralline but nobody believes him as he is too young. Knowing that the child is powerless and nobody can trust him, Coralline taunts the protagonist and torments him even more than before. Such mistreatment that happens to the protagonist is unbearable but as he is still young he is powerless and there is nothing he can do to stop Coralline (Gamin, pg 160).
The narration also brings the level of inability of the protagonist of stopping what is about to happen even if it is to him. In the narration the protagonist give the account of the events leading to his father’s attempt on committing suicide; he gives a detailed account of his father’s activities into great details that makes an adult shiver. If an adult was the one observing the behavior of the protagonist father would have contemplated what the father was about to do. He only realizes that his father wanted to commit suicide after he has already done so. His description of the events is too detailed in the narration he says “I looked at him, at the intent expression on his face. He had taken off his jacket before he came upstairs. He was wearing a light blue shirt and a maroon paisley tie. He pulled off his watch on its expandable strap, dropped it onto the window ledge.” By telling the story from a child’s perspective the readers can see how children at times lack the agency to do anything. The protagonist was in a good position to stop his father from attempting to commit suicide but as a child all he could do was just stare and wait for whatever was about to happen (Gamin, pg 100).
Most of the time children are looked down upon by the adult as people who are not prepared or experienced to handle terrible situation that is about to come. But in the narration the protagonist defies the notion of the young not being prepared to handle a terrible eventuality. Towards the end of the narration the protagonist knows that he is likely to die, he attempts to face it in the most positive manner. To show that he is ready to face his fate the protagonist states, “Um. I suppose. If I do. Have to die. Tonight.” The protagonist goes even further to prove that he was very much prepared for his death psychologically which is very unusual for a child this can be told from the statement in his narration. He says “I started, haltingly, not sure where I was going. I was going to ask for something, I imagine—for them to say goodbye to my mummy and daddy, or to tell my sister that it wasn’t fair that nothing bad ever happened to her: that her life was charmed and safe and protected, while I was forever stumbling into disaster” (Gamin, pg 180)
The author has done a commendable job in using the perspective of a child in telling the story, in so doing the narrator is able to put across his message across in the simplest manner. H e also brings out the various issues that children face in their day to day life when growing up as little children. He tells the willingness and at the same time acknowledges the difficulty of being a child. By telling the story from the child’s perspective he is able to connect with the adults as they wee also at one time children and understands some of the challenges of being a child.
The book is worth reading for any person who wishes to know the experiences that some children go through while growing up, there are some adults who did not face a difficult childhood and do not understand that for some people childhood is a struggle to be trusted and most of all to stay alive.
It is only a child that can tell a story the way he feels is right or the way he saw it, if he does not know what happened or has forgotten some things he will not make up things to fill the gap, but will tell the story as he wants it to be. The novel takes the reader in to the mind of a child, thus enabling the writer to understand the fears of a child, weakness, and even the strength of a child in dealing with some pressing issues.
Gaiman, Neil. The ocean at the end of the lane. New York: HarperCollins, 2013. Print.
Gaiman, Neil. The ocean at the end of the lane. New York: HarperLuxe, 2013. Print.
Gaiman, Neil. The ocean at the end of the lane. Large print ed. New York: HarperLuxe, 2013. Print.