Structuring an essay ITKOTC

First answer the question by giving an overview of your opinion or what you expect to find

E.g .

Is Hooper thoroughly evil or do you feel sympathy for him at any point in the story?



Once you have finished reading the book it is perhaps hard to remember any time at which one, as a reader, felt sympathy for Hooper because that final sentiment,

‘…it was because of me. I did that. And a spurt of triumph went through him,’ upon his seeing Kingshaw’s dead body in the water, can only raise our hackles and fill us with horror at the pure insensitivity of his reaction. And yet there are moments when the fact that these are just two ten year old boys, each with difficult family circumstances, is brought forcibly home to us.



It would be quite simple to say that Edmund Hooper is purely evil and that any sympathy we feel for him is completely lost at the end of the story when he sees Kingshaw’s dead body in the water and thinks:

‘…it was because of me. I did that. And a spurt of triumph went through him.’

However there is more to it than that because it could be argued that his background and upbringing influenced his actions, even if only subconsciously.


Now you need to present your points in order with supporting evidence i.e. quotations and / or detailed reference to incidents in the story.

This is where a plan is invaluable.

What are the best points to use to illustrate the question? Use as many varied ones as possible from all parts of the story, otherwise they may not be representative


Here then start at the beginning with

  • the note that Hooper dropped down to Kingshaw immediately setting out his feelings: ‘I didn’t want you to come here.’
  • Explain that this is not a normal reaction and maybe indicative of his nature as evil or may just be a response to the threat he perceives in the new arrival.
  • Continue with his interrogation of Kingshaw (extract from the dialogue here?) which culminates in the fight
  • Explain here that although this may be a quite normal thing to happen between young boys, it has here a deeper significance: it is Hooper’s way of asserting his territorial rights and supremacy over Kingshaw, but that is also serves to define the nature of the relationship between them for the rest of the story. Hooper has the power of security (the house) and a relatively stable background, whereas Kingshaw has no home and the only stability for him has been his school, which is now thrown into doubt by Hoopers’ questioning.
  • The next event to use gives a real insight into Hooper’s character as he watches Charles being attacked by the crow and instead of offering sympathy, adds verbally to his humiliation, (opportunity for a quote here) and then has the thought of the stuffed crow in the attic: ‘he could not have imagined the excitement it afforded him…thinking of things he could do to Kingshaw…’, which he could use to taunt his rival.
  • The most important element here is Edmund’s response to the thought of the crow and how Kingshaw would react: ‘excitement’. This is, again, not a normal reaction and is beginning to indicate a complete lack of sensitivity, even of conscience.


Okay so you’ve got three incidents already (plus the ending of course) that you’re going to use, so now I suggest you think of three or four more, not too many you only have an hour!


What is worthwhile remembering here is how to include quotes.

These are illustrations of what you have been saying. What you say around them should still make some sense if you were to take them out of the sentence, however you do not say what the quote says in your own words and then again in the quote! [See above for how I have incorporated them e.g the stuffed crow one.]

Ideally put them on separate lines and of course use speech marks. You do not need page numbers etc but you do need all the relevant bits – check by reading it back, have you got the right words/. Do you need all of them? Have you missed any important ones out? Use … to indicate where your quote is incomplete, at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end. Very useful!!


Now presumably you want to have a look at some evidence of times when the reader might have been made to feel sympathetic.


What choices do you have?

  • His lack of a mother?
  • Father’s neglect and lack of understanding of him?
  • The potential threat of a rival for his father’s minimal attention? Or to the house, the only thing he has worth mentioning?
  • His terror in the wood of the storm?
  • Of being lost?
  • His nightmare when he is asleep after his near death experience, when he calls for his mother?
  • His fall off the castle walls?


Most of these are negated by his immediate unfair blaming of Kingshaw and the fact that he never once made even the smallest effort to be other than hostile.


Here is your opportunity for higher marks by making sure you bring in the writer and her intentions – here that the reader sees the events mainly through Charles’ eyes and thoughts, with little insight into anybody else’s and therefore it is inevitably with him that our sympathies lie.


So now the CONCLUSION Sum up your thoughts – don’t just repeat your intro!

Even now it is difficult to conclude that Edmund Hooper was purely evil even if it is tempting to do so. The nature versus nurture debate is not so cut and dried in this case. His family circumstances are bound to have had some effect on him and his actions, yet we know that his mother was a hard and cold woman too. What we can conclude is that he was an amoral creature. He knew the difference between right and wrong and deliberately chose wrong. His final spurt of triumph is frightening in its implication of callousness. Yet the fact remains that he was only ten. How much can a ten year old really understand of life and death and pain? When Susan Hill wrote this story, in the late 60’s, child suicide was unheard of, though probably not unknown. In the mid 80’s the British public were appalled by the murder of toddler Jamie Bulger by two ten year old boys. Since that case we have had our eyes opened to what exactly children are capable of and perhaps pure evil isn’t impossible in people of this age!


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