The Happiest Days of Your Life

“The Happiest Days of Your Life” is a story by Penelope Lively. The story is about a young boy named Charles, who suffers by the consequences of his mother and fathers inability to take proper care of him. Charles is in that stage of his life, where his parents are trying to find him a preparatory school, and Charles and his parents are visiting a well-seen school.

The story stretch over a day and takes place in Sussex, which is in southern England. When the family is heading for the school, it says in the text that they are passing the Sussex landscape. Sussex is an upper class area, and that could indicate that the environment is rich.

The school is a big luxury mansion in Sussex, and this is where most of the story takes place. Inside the school everything is also formal. This school is expensive, which could tell that Sussex is not a middle class area. In the end of the story, Charles’ parents says that the they think that the school is a little bit pricey, and that shows us that the family is not entirely upper class, but more upper middle class.

Charles must be around 7 years old because his parents are trying to find preparatory school for him. Charles is a very shy boy who rarely even speaks, he does not even say one word during the entire story. He lacks of courage and in the very end of the story he does not even dare tell his own parents what he thinks about the school and that he definitely do not want to attend the school after he heard some boys saying that they want to beat him up next term. The introvert personality of Charles could be the consequence of his parents being inattentive during his entire childhood.

The parents seems to be more interested in the school and what it is able to offer them rather than to think about Charles. Charles’ parents has already decided, when Charles is ask of his thoughts about the school. When they are walking around the school and looking at the facilities, they give this vibe that they do not really care about how Charles thinks about the school. Charlie is also always left two paces behind his parents when they are walking up the stairs, and the father is also talking about which kind of business connections this school could bring them in the future.

“For a moment the three adults centred on the child, looking, judging. The mother said: ‘He looks so hideously pale, compared to those boys we saw outside” (Lively, page 57)

His parents wants show themself off, like upper class people and wants to have a good reputation, and this snobbish attitude has affected Charles throughout his childhood.

They have always been more attentive to their social appearance, than how Charles has felt, and this has made Charles a introvert and shy person, which has been lacking care and affection.

The atmosphere of the school is very formal and rich. The school has a big gate which can give visitors the feeling that the school is a exclusive place, where only few are welcomed. The school have corridors and glass doors, which also gives it a historical and old feeling.

Generally the school has the atmosphere of a place, where many upper class students throughout the years have attended, and this has created the formal, historical and exclusive reputation.

The headmaster and his wife also contributes to this atmosphere. They are well dressed and acts friendly, but i think that this only applies to people, who they think is of high status. While Charles’ parents talks to the headmaster, the headmasters wife leads Charles to the class he would join, if i attends the school. As soon as the headmasters wife enters the room, the boys in the class acts very interested and polite, some of them even tries to hold the door for her, but as soon as she is gone, they circulates around Charles and intimates him.

“He stands in the middle of them with shoulders humped, staring down at feet: grubby plimsolls and kicked brown sandals. There is a noise in his ears like rushing water, a torrential din out of which voices boom, blotting each other out so that he cannot always hear the words.” (Lively, page 58)

The school atmosphere could form the students who attend it, to become snobbish in their adult life. A child’ surroundings has a lot to do with how they will turn out to be, so if you attend a school where the mentality is that the more money you have, the better person you are, then you have a bigger chance to become snobbish and selfish.

“‘Well?’ ’I liked it, didn’t you?’ The mother adjusted the car around her, closing windows, shrugging into her seat.’ ‘Very pleasant. Nice chap.’ ‘I like him. Not quite so sure about her.’ ‘It’s pricey, of course.’ ‘All the same…’ ‘Money well spent though.’ ‘Shall we settle it, then?’ ‘Yes, i’ll drop him a line.’” (Lively, page 58)

Throughout the story we are shown how the parents of Charles wants him to attend this pricey school. That is because the parents wants Charles and themself to look like upperclass people, who are in control with their life.

“The child does not answer. He looks straight ahead of him, at the road coiling beneath the bonnet of the car. His face is haggard with anticipation. ‘Next term, we’ll mash you..’” (Lively, page 59)

Conflicts is a part of growing up, and some children may have a harder time than the rest. A lot of children are being bullied, and this can be for many reasons. Social class can be a reason. Many children are bullied and made fun of, based on their background, family status and wealth. In Charles situation, he is both shy and introvert, but also not from as high a class as the other students who attends the school. This package could make Charles a great target for bullies.

Source: Essay UK - http://xbmm43.com/essays/english-literature/the-happiest-days-of-your-life/


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