Book Analysis – Fiction. 

For my secondary research I will be looking at and analysing a variety of creative arts including books, films, art projects and photography projects to see how domestic abuse / violence is portrayed in different forms of media and art. Analysis books and films will give me an idea of what I should include in my film in terms of dialogue, body language and emotions from my characters and camera angles, types of lighting and location settings. I am also interested in looking at these different forms of art because I can then receive input and feedback from people on my course who are on different pathways such as fine art and photography.

Book Analysis. 

I have chosen to analysis extracts from fiction books that involve domestic abuse and / or violence because the character descriptions and the way they say things will give me a better idea of how my characters should act and sound. This is particular for the abusive character in my film, as fiction books may gave me an insight into what sets these types of characters off and the mannerisms they have that makes the reader or audience realise what type of person the character is. Looking at books will also help me with my script writing as it is an example of the type of dialogue I could use. It will also help me with the structure of my narrative as I want the flashback scenes to show the abuse escalating. Although the flashbacks will be in chronological order, including them in my film will make it a nonlinear narrative.

The first book I have chosen to analysis extracts from is Lola Rose by Jacqueline Wilson[1], a children’s and young adult fiction writer. Lola Rose is a serious yet light hearted book that focuses on a family with an abusive husband / father, who run away and manage to build up a new life with new names. The chapter I have chosen to analysis is the second, titled ‘Dad’ because this chapter shows how the character interacts with his family and the way he acts with the mum will give me ideas on how my characters should act with each other during the flashback scenes. It is also the chapter where he hits his daughter who is the protagonist in this book, it is the catalyst for the family running away.

The first paragraph I have chosen is on page 23 and reads “Dad was in a good mood, but he could turn in seconds.” This sentence shows that the abusive character is quick to change his emotions and way of thinking, something I will emulate in my first flashback as my characters will go from being slightly drunk, happy and laughing to the male character grabbing the arm of the female character tightly. The next sentence “You never knew what might set him off. Some silly little thing you said – sometimes just a look, sometimes it seemed like no reason at all. “ again shows that the character fluctuates from one emotion to the other as he is easily aggravated, however it may also imply that the character often looks for a reason to hurt the other by starting verbal or physical fights for no reason. This could also be an emotional aspect of abuse as the abusive character could use these mood swings to manipulate the victim character into believing it is their fault etc. This is an idea I will use in my second flashback, where the abusive character is begging the victim, who is obviously bruised for forgiveness – a manipulative technique to ensure he stays in her life. The last part of the paragraph “It was as if Dad’s head was wired up weirdly and every so often he was programmed to explode.” This sentence reminds us that the book is mainly aimed at older children and young adults, as that is the age of the protagonist and it is written in a way that is relatable to people of those ages as it is type of language they would use. However it also shows that the dad character has behaved like that for so long or often that the child character can recognise it and attempt to explain it to herself and the readers. The simile used shows that the abusive character goes through short phases of nice behaviour before ‘exploding’ and lashing out, again this is something I want to show in one of my flashback scenes.

On page 24, the sentence “Mum always softened when Dad called her babe. She forgot that he could also call her a dozy cow or worse.” shows that the woman still loves the man, despite the abuse however it also again implies that he is emotionally abusive towards her by acting and talking to her nicely sometimes and harshly at others, I will show this in either my first or third flashback. At the bottom of page 28 the male (dad) character begins a tirade about the lottery money the mum character won in the first chapter (the means the family use to run away in chapter three) and accuses her of seeing another man, although he has been shown flirting with other women in front of the family in previous pages. This implies that the man is possessive of her as he doesn’t want her to leave him, it also shows that he is controlling the woman by making her feel guilty about the accusation which again is emotional abuse. This is an idea I may use in my first flashback depending on the length of it, it would work well with the narrative because the couple have just come home from a party and the accusation could be the catalyst for the escalating abuse as the male (abusive) character grabs onto the woman’s arm and could then start shouting accusations at her as the scene changes back to the main narrative.

On page 30 the protagonist has stood up to her dad by shouting at him and saying that he is ruining their family with his moods, shouting and hitting. The book then reads “Dad’s head jerked as if I’d hit him. He stood still, shaking his head, as if he couldn’t quite work it out. I think that’s why he hit me. He didn’t know what else to do.” This shows that the male character doesn’t have any other way of dealing with his wife, or daughter now, when he is angry. The blunt tone of the sentence could imply that the daughter is so used to this behaviour exhibited on her mum that she isn’t really afraid of him but could also mean that she is in shock at what has happened. The next paragraph reads “It was a slap across my face that lifted me right off my feet. I ended up flat on my back on the carpet. Mum leapt at Dad, scratching his face with her long nails.” This shows that although the mum is accepting of the abuse she receives, she will not let her daughter be affected by it. It also shows that the character is defiant when it comes to her children as she tries to attack him despite the fact that he is larger than her physically and has hit her before. The next sentence reads “He punched her and then when she was on the ground beside me he kicked her.” This could imply that the man finds pleasure in hurting the woman as he still does it when she is on the floor, this could also be a sign of control as the man wants the woman to know she is incapable of fighting back if he can reduce her to lying on the floor. This is something I want to show briefly in a third flashback as the scene will show the woman cowering on the floor whilst the man stands over her with a raised fist.

In conclusion, the extracts from Lola Rose have been helpful research as I have been able to analyse them for inspiration on how my main characters, the abusive character and the victim character should interact with each other and what sort of dialogue and body language should be used to portray the situation and convey both characters emotions to an audience. My abusive character will be male and shown as physically and emotionally abusive just as the abusive character is in Lola Rose however the difference between my film and this book is that my narrative will be shorter, less focused on a family dynamic and more focused on how the abuse has effected the victim character and the consequences. The victim character will also be timid and fearful whereas the character in the book seemed to ignore the abuse she was suffering until it was inflicted onto her children when she changed and became more defiant and unwilling to let it happen.

The second book I have chosen to analyse is Cookie which is also by Jacqueline Wilson[2]. Again this book is aimed at older children and young teenagers and focuses on the family dynamics between the protagonist and daughter character, Beauty, her mum and her dad. The plot follows Beauty and her mum Dilly after they leave the dad character who is verbally and emotionally abusive towards both female characters and physically abusive towards the mum character on one occasion.

The first paragraph I have chosen to look at is in chapter 11, on page 156 and reads “I knew it wasn’t the moment to remind Dad I’d never asked for a proper party. I looked at his red face and twitchy eyelid and his clenched fists, all the warning signs. He was primed like a hand grenade. He was just about keeping it together because the caters were here but all it needed was one tiny trigger – and then he’d explode.” This sentence tells the reader that the daughter character is scared of her dads reaction and therefore scared of him as she does not want to bring up the fact that she doesn’t want a party and anger him. It shows that she is used to this type of behaviour from him even though she is established to be around 10 or 11 years old. It also tells the reader that this particular character has certain tells in his body language when he becomes angry or aggressive which is common in some types of abusive people however others seem to have no warnings signs and may snap at any moment. The abusive character in my short film will most likely be in the latter category. The simile used to compare the dad character to a hand grenade is interesting as it is a violent object and could mean the daughter either expects the dad character to be violent towards her or that he is controlled in his anger by keeping it together until he feels it is the right moment, for example a time when the family is alone, to ‘explode’ (become violent either verbally or physically.)

The second sentence I have chosen is on page 156 and is part of a piece of dialogue from the dad (the abusive character) directed at the mum character and reads: “I don’t want you to start all these damn daft cooking experiments, (as the previous paragraphs show the mum has tried to bake, something she hasn’t tried before) you’re useless at it. Your job is to look beautiful, so brighten up and put a smile on your face, for pity’s sake.” The first sentence tells us that the husband (dad to the protagonist) often puts his wife down by telling her she has no talents and that she is useless, a tactic often used by people who are trying to manipulate or control their partners as it makes them feel bad about themselves and repeating such insults may lead to low self worth.

The next paragraph I have chosen is on page 160 and reads: “ ‘Dilly, can I have a word?’ (dialogue) said Dad. ‘In a minute, Gerry,’ (dialogue) said Mum. Dad took hold of Mum by the wrist. She had to go with him. They went into the kitchen and shut the door but I could still hear Dad clearly.” This shows the tense relationship between the husband and wife characters as the man loses patience with the woman for not doing as he says. In this instance it is that the woman isn’t wearing a specific piece of jewellery that her husband has told her too because she pawned it earlier in the book in order to purchase a mirror to replace the one the daughter character has broke. In a ‘normal’ relationship the incident wouldn’t have had to be hidden from the husband and therefore wouldn’t lead to the following argument and even though this paragraph isn’t a direct sign of an abusive relationship you can tell from the dialogue and the way it is written that the atmosphere between the characters is tense and that the husband character expects his wife to follow orders he has given. The fact that the wife has pawned the jewellery in order to replace the mirror instead of admitting to the incident also implies that she is afraid to tell him because of the reaction he would have. The last part – ‘Dad took hold of Mum by the wrist’ shows that he is starting to lose patience with her as he is beginning to be physical towards her even though they are around other people (the daughters party guests as the incident happens on her birthday.) This could be seen as normal, physical contact between the couple however the next part – ‘she had to go with him’ could imply that he has a tight grip on her arm making it difficult for her to pull away, this could be a warning sign that further abuse is to follow as he is obviously angry with her. This is something I want to use in my short film during my main characters first flashback as the man will grab her tightly by the wrist and start shouting accusations when she cannot get away from him.

The next sentence, on page 161, describes the main instance of physical violence in this book and reads: “There was a sudden unmistakeable sound from the kitchen, harsh and horrible. ‘Was that a slap? Does your dad hit your mum?’ Arabella asked, her eyes wide.” This implies that the husband (the abusive character) has lost some control of his emotions as he is attempting to start an argument, which leads to physical abuse, with his wife in the vicinity of other people whereas statistically, abuse often happens in private. The way the character, Arabella, reacts (‘her eyes wide’) to the argument and the sound of the slap reveals that the family dynamic between the main characters is not normal for her as she is clearly frightened and shocked.

The next part I have chosen to analyse is argumentative dialogue between the dad and mum characters and happens just after the daughters birthday party. It starts on page 181[3] and carries across to page 182 where we then see the mum character standing up to the dad in order to defend her daughter. The start – “ ‘I’m sick to death of the two of you,’ said Dad, his voice raising, not caring that the chauffeur could hear every word” again shows that the dad has lost control of his emotions as he has started another argument, in a raised voice which shows he is becoming angry, in front of outsiders (the chauffeur.) The next part – “ ‘I work my butt off for both of you, flinging money at you like it was confetti and yet I never get one word of gratitude. I’ve spent a small fortune on your birthday, Beauty, and yet you haven’t had the wit to make the most of it. You stand in the corner like you’re some little saddo no – friends while all the other girls bounce about and have a laugh and enjoy themselves.’ “ By saying this he is attempting to twist the situation and make the mother and daughter feel guilty about taking him for granted, which they do not actually do. He is guilt – tripping them into feeling grateful for him and bad about themselves, a tactic used by manipulative and abusive people to make the victim stay with them. He then starts insulting his daughter, using terms that tell the reader he is disappointed in her and tries to lower her self worth by comparing her to the other girls at the party. Manipulation tactics are often used by abusive people in order to make their victim feel small and worthless, which may lead to them becoming dependant on their abuser as they may feel like they cannot go to anyone for help for fear of rejection. I will include some of these tactics during a scene in my short film, where the victim character is looking at her phone and receives mean text messages from her boyfriend, making her feel bad.  

The same tactics are used in the next sentence when the dad includes the mum in his tirade and says “ ‘You’re no better, Dilly. You won’t chat properly to the other mums. You act like you can’t say boo to a goose half the time. I buy you lovely clothes and jewellery so you can show yourself off and what do you do? Only go and lose your diamond collar! How can you lose it, for pity’s sake? I know you’re a fool but surely even you can do up the clasp of a necklace?’ “ Again, the dad is trying to twist the situation around and blame the mum, as he is conveniently ignoring the fact that the mum doesn’t do any of these things because she is afraid of him and too used to not socialising with other people. In extreme cases of abuse this could be described as Stockholm Syndrome – a condition that causes people to develop a psychological alliance with their abuser (or captor in kidnapping cases) or develop familial or romantic feelings for them as a survival strategy. Although the abuse in this book isn’t extreme and doesn’t involve the syndrome, we see the man has attempted to somewhat isolate his wife from other people her age. He is also insulting her in order to put her down and make her feel bad. 

In conclusion, Cookie is a story about a mum and daughter finally escaping an abusive household and beginning again by finding a new home, family and happiness away from the abusive character. The extracts I have analysed have given me a better understanding of the different types of abuse and how they can be used together in order to have control over the victim. The dialogue between the characters has given me a lot of ideas on how my characters will interact with each other in my film and the types of things they’d say. 

By comparing the two books I can tell that the characters are similar as both male characters are verbally, emotionally and physically abusive towards their families. In typical cases of abuse these three types are often used together in order to control the victim however in the book Cookie I can tell that the male character prefers verbal and emotional abuse as there is only one instance of physical abuse and the book doesn’t mention it happening before, whereas in Lola Rose the male character is described to have hit the character of the mum multiple times in the past and is also verbally abusive and manipulative towards her. Even though the abuse in both books is directed at both the mum character and the younger protagonist character I have chosen to focus on the actions and dialogue between the mum and dad as the characters in my film will be a young couple without children. The mum characters in the book are similar because they both suffer from their abusive husbands and eventually take the stand to leave their abusers. Personality wise the characters are quite similar, both are shy and generally submissive to their husbands however the mum in Cookie tends to defend her daughter against the verbal abuse by arguing back whilst simply taking any that is directed at herself whereas the mum in Lola Rose usually feigns ignorance to the verbal abuse directed at herself and often tries to ignore some situations by turning them into a different, made up idea or story. Wether this is for the benefit of her children or herself I do not know as the character often seems oblivious to how bad the situation is whilst the protagonist, a young girl, can often tell that the dad character is angry.

Both books are written in the first person and the protagonists are pre teen girls facing abnormal family problems. As the target audience for both books are pre teen girls they are written in such a way that is understandable and relatable by using language and descriptions people of that age would use. The plots of both books are also similar in their narrative structure as both follow a chronological timeline of events: their day to day life with an abusive character, an event that makes them realise the character is bad causing them to leave him and then the characters fresh starts and finally the happy ending. The endings are slightly different however as Cookie finishes with the events happening in the character present whereas Lola Rose finishes with an epilogue of sorts where the protagonist explains where the family will go next and what they will be doing. Although both books are lighthearted and easy to read they also make a clear point that violence and abusive behaviour is bad and shouldn’t be tolerated by anyone, therefore raising awareness of the subject and providing young people in similar situations with a relatable source of help or understanding of what they are going through. In my opinion more books for young people about situations like domestic violence etc should be written as they help young people become aware of certain issues and educates them on what the situation is and how to recognise it. These two books in particular point out the warning signs of domestic abuse and give the message that there is hope to get out of this type of situation and that it is not to be tolerated.

Image result for lola rose jaq wilsonImage result for lola rose jaq wilson

Image result for cookie book jacqueline wilsonImage result for cookie book jacqueline wilson

  • [1] Wilson, J. (2003). Dad. Lola Rose. U.K: Doubleday. p19-30.
  • [2] Wilson, J. (2008). Eleven. Cookie. U.K: Doubleday. p156-161.
  • [3] Wilson, J. (2008). Twelve. Cookie. U.K: Doubleday. p180-189.

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